The Editorial Committee of
THE READERS CLUB
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation
IMc IsCHAcU or C/V**t+r*e<3:
AND MORE UNLIKELY STORIES
BY JOHN COLLIER
WITH A FOREWORD BY CLIFTON FADIMAN
'jgjigw*! zy cp™> .f zy ***** cu <i?wmw
Some of the stories in this book have been printed in The New
Yorker and Harper's Magazine; some of them have previously
been gathered into a volume called Presenting Moonshine
[published by the Viking Press, New York, 1941] and a volume
called The Devil and All [published by the Nonesuch Press,
London, 1934]. All of the stories are copyright by John Col-
lier: 1931, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943. The special con-
tents of this edition are copyright, 1943, by The Readers Club.
WJjjKljw^ FOREWORD !j!!!!j!!!!j^
IN THE THREE READERS, AN ANTHOLOGY PUBLISHED RECENTLY BY
The Readers Club, I included a story by John Collier called
Back for Christmas. I invited my readers to let me know whether
they had enjoyed this murderous trifle. Enough of them did, to
encourage me to wage a campaign with the object of persuading
Mr. Van Doren and Mr. Lewis that one of the things this sad
world needs is a good collection of Collier stories. The campaign
worked, and here is the collection.
TYfrr r!nlljp r i<uan_ Englishm an (born in 1901) at present resi-
dent i n this country. He has written. poetry r -a- couple -of-iantasr
tic^ novelsjjncludin g one about a man who married a chimpan-
zee) , and perhaps forty o r fifty s tories. It is the stories that give
him his claim to the attention of the members of The Readers
Club. There has been nothing like them in English since Said,
with whose negligent and foppish genius he has a good deal in
Today the literary world, in addition to its overwhelming pre-
ponderance of mediocre minds, comprises great minds, sensitive
minds, powerful minds, persuasive minds; but in it is rarely to
be found the genuinely odd mind. By odd I do not mean un-
balanced; I mean what our ancestors used to call "an original."
Laurence Sterne was a great original; John Collier is a small origi-
nal; but both minds find their center in eccentricity.
These stories are not profound or beautiful or even memorable;
but they are refreshingly odd, aromatic and spicy: like the nut-
meg which has given this book its title. John Collier does not set
up to be a thinker or a close observer of humankind. He works
in a narrow groove, but there he works well.
Some of these tales are grotesque or merely fanciful, such as
Evening Primrose, which tells us all we have ever wanted to
know about the strange life that goes on in department stores
after dark; or Variation on a Theme, the peculiar tale of the
literary gorilla (which, by the way, I conceive to have certain
malicious symbolical overtones) ; or Ah! The University, sl grin-
ning oddment with the game of poker as its theme; or Night!
Youth! Paris! And the Moon! with its headlong tempo and cul-
Closely allied to these fancies are a few naughty tales (Old
Acquaintance, The Frog Prince) whose dandiacal immoralism is
harmless and charming.
A deeper note creeps into the stories of the macabre (that
veteran and inveterate punster, Louis Untermeyer, wanted to
call this volume "The Real Macabre") . Such are the chilling or-
chidaceous narrative, Green Thoughts; the comical and bloody
extravaganza, Rope Enough; and the horripilatory Bird of Prey.
These are stories Poe would have loved; but they have a mock-
ing, insouciant quality, very modern, that Poe, who was often
pretty heavy-handed, lacked. (I am not saying that Collier is
better than Poe; he is not even in his class.)
Another vein in which Mr. Collier works, or plays, with flip-
pant ease is that of the infernal. There are half a dozen such
stories in this book, some devilishly good. The most impish of
them is The Devil, George and Rosie; the only one that is serious
is Thus I Refute Beelzy, which combines a neat touch of horror
with the most strait-laced morality. Mr. Collier's Devil, of course,
is a gentleman bohemian.
But to my mind the cream of Collier is to be found in the mur-
der stories. I have included half a dozen or so of the best. They
are unlike any murder stories I have read, compressing in brief
compass the most extraordinary twists of plot and the most fiend-
ish atmosphere of suspense. Back for Christmas, one of my
favorites, is perhaps merely ingenious; but such a tale as Wet
Saturday is also a remarkable study of a perverted human char-
acter, as is Little Memento. Somewhat outside this group stands
Another American Tragedy, the damnedest tale you ever read,
chilling and funny at the same time.
Finally I ask you not to miss The Chaser, a moral anecdote
raised to the level of minor art. Its entire point lies in its final
Collier's humor has nothing to do with phrases or even situa-
tions; it proceeds from a peculiar flipness of tone all his own,
acetic, casual, always surprising. He is mannered, but it is a true,
not an affected manner. His mind is limited and subtle, working
only with the unexpected, the wild, and the lightly diabolic. He
has the genuine souffle touch. clifton fadiman
THE TOUCH OF NUTMEG MAKES IT
DE MORTUIS . . .
BACK FOR CHRISTMAS
THE FROG PRINCE
THE DEVIL, GEORGE, AND ROSIE
[viii] The Contents
HALF-WAY TO HELL
POSSESSION OF ANGELA BRADSHAW
THE RIGHT SIDE
ANOTHER AMERICAN TRAGEDY
BIRD OF PREY
THUS I REFUTE BEELZY
NIGHT! YOUTH! PARIS! AND THE MOON!
VARIATION ON A THEME
AH, THE UNIVERSITY!
AFTER THE BALL
HELL HATH NO FURY
THE TOUCH OF NUTMEG
!J!5! THE TOUCH OF NUTMEG MAKES IT 59!
A DOZEN BIG FIRMS SUBSIDIZE OUR MINERALOGICAL INSTITUTE, AND
most of them keep at least one man permanently on research
there. The library has the intimate and smoky atmosphere of a
club. Logan and I had been there longest and had the two tables
in the big window bay. Against the wall, just at the edge of the
bay, where the light was bad, was a small table which was left for
newcomers or transients.
One morning a new man was sitting at this table. It was not
necessary to look at the books he had taken from the shelves to
know that he was on statistics rather than formulae. He had one
of those skull-like faces on which the skin seems stretched pain-
fully tight. These are almost a hallmark of the statistician. His
mouth was intensely disciplined but became convulsive at the
least relaxation. His hands were the focal point of a minor mor-
bidity. When he had occasion to stretch them both out together
— to shift an open book, for example — he would stare at them for
a full minute at a time. At such times the convulsive action of his
mouth muscles was particularly marked.
The newcomer crouched low over his table when anyone passed
behind his chair, as if trying to decrease the likelihood of contact.
Presently he took out a cigarette, but his eye fell on the "No
Smoking" sign, which was universally disregarded, and he re-
turned the cigarette to its pack. At mid-morning he dissolved a
tablet in a glass of water. I guessed at a long-standing anxiety
I mentioned this to Logan at lunchtime. He said, "The poor
guy certainly looks as miserable as a wet cat."
I am never repelled or chilled, as many people are, by the
cheerless self-centeredness of the nervous or the unhappy. Logan,
who has less curiosity, has a superabundance of good nature. We
watched this man sitting in his solitary cell of depression for sev-
eral days while the pleasant camaraderie of the library flowed all
The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It [S]
around him. Then, without further discussion, we asked him to
lunch with us.
He took the invitation in the typical neurasthenic fashion,
seeming to weigh half a dozen shadowy objections before he ac-
cepted it. However, he came along, and before the meal was over
he confirmed my suspicion that he had been starving for company
but was too tied-up to make any move toward it. We had already
found out his name, of course — J. Chapman Reid — and that he
worked for the Walls Tyman Corporation. He named a string of
towns he had lived in at one time or another, and told us that
he came originally from Georgia. That was all the information he
offered. He opened up very noticeably when the talk turned on gen-
eral matters, and occasionally showed signs of having an intense
and painful wit, which is the sort I like best. He was pathetically
grateful for the casual invitation. He thanked us when we got up
from the table, again as we emerged from the restaurant, and yet
again on the threshold of the library. This made it all the more
natural to suggest a quiet evening together sometime soon.
During the next few weeks we saw a good deal of J. Chapman
Reid and found him a very agreeable companion. I have a great
weakness for these dry, reserved characters who once or twice an
evening come out with a vivid, penetrating remark that shows
there is a volcanic core smoldering away at high pressure under-
neath. We might even have become friends if Reid himself hadn't
prevented this final step, less by his reserve, which I took to be
part of his nature, than by his unnecessary gratitude. He made
no effusive speeches — he was not that type — but a lost dog has
no need of words to show his dependence and his appreciation. It
was clear our company was everything to J. Chapman Reid.
One day Nathan Trimble, a friend of Logan's, looked in at the
library. He was a newspaperman and was killing an hour while
waiting for a train connection. He sat on Logan's table facing the
window, with his back to the rest of the room. I went round and
talked to him and Logan. It was just about time for Trimble to
leave when Reid came in and sat down at his table. Trimble hap-
pened to look around, and he and Reid saw one another.
I was watching Reid. After the first startled stare, he did not
even glance at the visitor. He sat quite still for a minute or so,
his head dropping lower and lower in little jerks, as if some-
[ 4 ] The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It
one was pushing it down, then he got up and walked out of the
"By God!" said Trimble. "Do you know who that is? Do you
know who you've got there?"
"No," said we. "Who?"
"Jason C. Reid."
"Jason C.?" I said. "Oh, yes. So what?"
"Why, for God's sake, don't you read the news? Don't you
remember the Pittsburgh cleaver murder?"
"No," said I.
"Wait a minute," said Logan. "About a year or so ago, was it?
I read something."
"Damn it!" said Trimble. "It was a front-page sensation. This
guy was tried for it. They said he hacked a pal of his pretty nearly
to pieces. I saw the body. Never seen such a mess in my life.
"However," said I, "it would appear this fellow didn't do it.
Presumably he wasn't convicted."
"They tried to pin it on him," said Trimble, "but they couldn't.
It looked hellish bad, I must say. Alone together. No trace of any
outsider. But no motive. I don't know. I just don't know. I cov-
ered the trial, was in court every day, but I couldn't make up
my mind about the guy. Don't leave any meat cleavers round
this library, that's all. Look, I've got to get going."
With that, he bade us goodbye. I looked at Logan. Logan looked
at me. "I don't believe it," said Logan. "I don't believe he did it."
"I don't wonder his nerves are eating him," said I.
"No," said Logan. "It must be damnable. And now it's followed
him here, and he knows it."
"We'll let him know, somehow," said I, "that we're not even
interested enough to look up the newspaper files."
"Good idea," said Logan.
A little later Reid came in again, his movements showing signs
of intense control. He came over to where we were sitting. "Would
you prefer to cancel our arrangement for tonight?" said he. "I
think it would be better if we cancelled it. I shall ask my firm to
transfer me again. I — "
"Hold on," said Logan. "Who said so? Not us."
"Didn't he tell you?" said Reid. "Of course he did."
The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It 
"He said you were tried," said I. "And he said you were ac-
quitted. That's good enough for us."
"We aren't interested," said Logan. "And the date's on. And
we wont talk."
"Oh!" said Reid. "Oh!"
"Forget it," said Logan, returning to his papers.
I took Reid by the shoulder and gave him a friendly shove in
the direction of his table. We avoided looking at him for the rest
of the afternoon.
That night, when we met for dinner, we were naturally a little
self-conscious. Reid probably felt it. "Look here," he said when
we had finished eating, "would either of you mind if we skipped
the movie tonight?"
"It's O.K. by me," said Logan. "Shall we go to Chancey's?"
"No," said Reid. "I want you to come somewhere where we
can talk. Come up to my place."
"Just as you like," said I. "It's not necessary."
"Yes it is," said Reid. "We may as well get it over."
He was in a painfully nervous state, so we consented and went
up to his apartment, where we had never been before. It was a
single room with a pull-down bed and a bathroom and kitchenette
opening off it. Though Reid had now been in town over two
months, there was absolutely no sign that he was living there at
all. It might have been a room hired for the uncomfortable con-
versation of this one night.
We sat down, but Reid immediately got up again and stood
between us, in front of the imitation fireplace.
"I should like to say nothing about what happened today," he
began. "I should like to ignore it and let it be forgotten. But it
can't be forgotten.
"It's no use telling me you won't think about it," said he. "Of
course you'll think about it. Everyone did back there. The firm
sent me to Cleveland. It became known there, too. Everyone was
thinking about it, whispering about it, wondering.
"You see, it would be rather more exciting if the fellow was
guilty after all, wouldn't it?
"In a way, I'm glad this has come out. With you two, I mean.
Most people — I don't want them to know anything. You two —
you've been decent to me — I want you to know all about it. AIL
 The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It
"I came up from Georgia to Pittsburgh, was there for ten years
with the Walls Tyman people. While there I met — I met Earle
Wilson. He came from Georgia, too, and we became very great
friends. I've never been one to go about much. Earle was not only
my best friend, he was almost my only friend.
"Very well. Earle's job with our company was better than mine;
he was able to afford a small house just beyond the fringe of the
town. I used to drive out there two or three evenings a week. We
spent the evenings very quietly. I want you to understand that I
was quite at home in the house. There was no host-and-guest at-
mosphere about it. If I felt sleepy, I'd make no bones about going
upstairs and stretching out on a bed and taking a nap for half an
hour. There's nothing so extraordinary about that, is there?"
"No, nothing extraordinary about that," said Logan.
"Some people seemed to think there was," said Reid. "Well, one
night I went out there after work. We ate, we sat about a bit, we
played a game of checkers. He mixed a couple of drinks, then I
mixed a couple. Normal enough, isn't it?"
"It certainly is," said Logan.
"I was tired," said Reid. "I felt heavy. I said I'd go upstairs and
stretch out for half an hour. That always puts me right. So I went
"I sleep heavily, very heavily, for half an hour, then I'm all
right. This time I seemed to be dreaming, a sort of nightmare. I
thought I was in an air raid somewhere, and heard Earle's voice
calling me, but I didn't wake, not till the usual half -hour was up,
"I went downstairs. The room below was dark. I called out to
Earle and started across from the stairs toward the light switch.
Halfway across, I tripped over something — it turned out to be the
floor lamp, which had fallen over, and I went down, and I fell flat
"I knew it was him. I got up and found the light. He was lying
there. He looked as if he had been attacked by a madman. He was
cut to pieces, almost. God!
"I got hold of the phone at once and called the police. Naturally.
While they were coming, I looked round. But first of all I just
walked about, dazed. It seems I must have gone up into the bed-
room again. I've got no recollection of that, but they found a smear
The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It 
of blood on the pillow. Of course, I was covered with it, absolutely
covered; I had fallen on him. You can understand a man being
dazed, can't you? You can understand him going upstairs, even,
and not remembering it? Can't you?"
"I certainly can," said Logan.
"It seems very natural," said I.
"They thought they had trapped me over that," said Reid.
"They said so to my face. The idiots! Well, I remember looking
round, and I saw what it had been done with. Earle had a great
equipment of cutlery in his kitchen. One of our firm's subsidiaries
was in that line. One of the things was a meat cleaver, the sort of
thing you see usually in a butcher's shop. It was there on the
"Well, the police came. I told them all I could. Earle was a quiet
fellow. He had no enemies. Does anyone have that sort of enemy?
I thought it must be some maniac. Nothing was missing. It wasn't
robbery, unless some half-crazy tramp had got in and been too
scared in the end to take anything.
"Whoever it was had made a very clean getaway. Too clean for
the police. And too clean for me. They looked for fingerprints, and
they couldn't find any.
"They have an endless routine in this sort of thing. I won't bore
you with every single detail. It seemed their routine wasn't good
enough — the fellow was too clever for them. But of course they
wanted an arrest. So they indicted me.
"Their case was nothing but a negative one. God knows how
they thought it could succeed. Perhaps they didn't think so. But,
you see, if they could build up a strong presumptive case, and I
only got off because of a hung jury — well, that's different from
having to admit they couldn't find hair or hide of the real mur-
"What was the evidence against me? That they couldn't find
traces of anyone else! That's evidence of their own damned ineffi-
ciency, that's all. Does a man murder his best friend for nothing?
Could they find any reason, any motive? They were trying to find
some woman first of all. They have the mentality of a ten-cent
magazine. They combed our money affairs. They even tried to
smell out some Fifth-Column tieup. Oh, God, if you knew what
it was to be confronted with faces out of a comic strip and with
[ 8 ] The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It
minds that match the faces! If ever you are charged with murder,
hang yourself in your cell the first night.
"In the end they settled on our game of checkers. Our poor,
harmless game of checkers! We talked all the while we were play-
ing, you know, and sometimes even forgot whose turn it was to
move next. I suppose there are people who can go berserk in a
dispute over a childish game, but to me that's something utterly
incomprehensible. As a matter of fact, I remember we had to
start this game over again, not once but twice — first when Earle
mixed the drinks, and then when I mixed them. Each time we
forgot who was to move. However, they fixed on that. They had
to find some shadow of a motive, and that was the best they could
"Of course, my lawyer tore it to shreds. By the mercy of God
there'd been quite a craze at the works for playing checkers at
lunchtime. So he soon found half a dozen men to swear that neither
Earle nor I ever played the game seriously enough to get het up
"They had no other motive to put forward. Absolutely none.
Both our lives were simple, ordinary, humdrum, and open as a
book. What was their case? They couldn't find what they were
paid to find. For that, they proposed to send a man to the death
cell. Can you beat that?"
"It sounds pretty damnable," said I.
"Yes," said he passionately. "Damnable is the word. They got
what they were after — the jury voted nine to three for acquittal,
which saved the faces of the police. There was plenty of room for
a hint that they were on the right track all the time. You can
imagine what my life has been since! If you ever get into that sort
of mess, my friends, hang yourselves the first night, in your cell."
"Don't talk like that," said Logan. "Look here, you've had a
bad time. Damned bad. But what the hell? It's over. You're here
"And we're here," said I. "If that helps any."
"Helps?" said he. "God, if you could ever guess how it helped!
I'll never be able to tell you. I'm no good at that sort of thing.
See, I drag you here, the only human beings who've treated me
decently, and I pour all this stuff out and don't offer you a drink,
even. Never mind, I'll give you one now — a drink you'll like."
The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It 
"I could certainly swallow a highball," said Logan.
"You shall have something better than that," said Reid, moving
toward the kitchenette. "We have a little specialty down in our
corner of Georgia. Only it's got to be fixed properly. Wait just a
He disappeared through the door, and we heard corks being
drawn and a great clatter of pouring and mixing. While this went
on, he was still talking through the doorway. "I'm glad I brought
you up here," he said. "I'm glad I put the whole thing to you. You
don't know what it means — to be believed, understood, by God!
I feel I'm alive again."
He emerged with three brimming glasses on a tray. "Try this,"
he said proudly.
"To the days ahead!" said Logan, as we raised our glasses.
We drank and raised our eyebrows in appreciation. The drink
seemed to be a sort of variant of sherry flip, with a heavy sprin-
kling of nutmeg.
"You like it?" cried Reid eagerly. "There's not many people
know the recipe for that drink, and fewer still can make it well.
There are one or two bastard versions which some damned fools
mix up — a disgrace to Georgia. I could — I could pour the mess
over their heads. Wait a minute. You're men of discernment. Yes,
by God, you are! You shall decide for yourselves."
With that, he darted back into the kitchenette and rattled his
bottles more furiously than before, still talking to us disjointedly,
praising the orthodox version of his drink, and damning all imita-
"Now, here you are," said he, appearing with the tray loaded
with drinks very much like the first but rather differently gar-
nished. "These abortions have mace and ginger on the top instead
of nutmeg. Take thefn. Drink them. Spit them out on the carpet
if you want to. I'll mix some more of the real thing to take the
taste out of your mouth. Just try them. Just tell me what you
think of a barbarian who could insist that that was a Georgian
flip. Go on. Tell me."
We sipped. There was no considerable difference. However, we
replied as was expected of us.
"What do you think, Logan?" said I. "The first has it, beyond
[JO] The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It
"Beyond doubt," said Logan. "The first is the real thing."
"Yes," said Reid, his face livid and his eyes blazing like live
coals. "And that is hogwash. The man who calls that a Georgian
flip is not fit to — not fit to mix bootblacking. It hasn't the nutmeg.
The touch of nutmeg makes it."
He put out both his hands to lift the tray, and his eyes fell on
them. He sat very still, staring at them.
!r^!r^^ DE MORTUIS ^S^S^S^^
DR. RANKIN WAS A LARGE AND RAWBONED MAN ON WHOM THE NEW-
est suit at once appeared outdated, like a suit in a photograph of
twenty years ago. This was due to the squareness and flatness of
his torso, which might have been put together by a manufacturer
of packing cases. His face also had a wooden and a roughly con-
structed look; his hair was wiglike and resentful of the comb. He
had those huge and clumsy hands which can be an asset to a doctor
in a small upstate town where people still retain a rural relish for
paradox, thinking that the more apelike the paw, the more precise
it can be in the delicate business of a tonsillectomy.
This conclusion was perfectly justified in the case of Dr. Rankin.
For example, on this particular fine morning, though his task was
nothing more ticklish than the cementing over of a large patch on
his cellar floor, he managed those large and clumsy hands with all
the unflurried certainty of one who would never leave a sponge
within or create an unsightly scar without.
The Doctor surveyed his handiwork from all angles. He added
a touch here and a touch there till he had achieved a smoothness
altogether professional. He swept up a few last crumbs of soil and
dropped them into the furnace. He paused before putting away
the pick and shovel he had been using, and found occasion for yet
another artistic sweep of his trowel, which made the new surface
precisely flush with the surrounding floor. At this moment of su-
preme concentration the porch door upstairs slammed with the
report of a minor piece of artillery, which, appropriately enough,
caused Dr. Rankin to jump as if he had been shot.
The Doctor lifted a frowning face and an attentive ear. He heard
two pairs of heavy feet clump across the resonant floor of the
porch. He heard the house door opened and the visitors enter the
hall, with which his cellar communicated by a short flight of steps.
He heard whistling and then the voices of Buck and Bud crying,
"Doc! Hi, Doc! They're biting!"
De Mortuis ... 
Whether the Doctor was not inclined for fishing that day, or
whether, like others of his large and heavy type, he experienced
an especially sharp, unsociable reaction on being suddenly startled,
or whether he was merely anxious to finish undisturbed the job in
hand and proceed to more important duties, he did not respond
immediately to the inviting outcry of his friends. Instead, he lis-
tened while it ran its natural course, dying down at last into a
puzzled and fretful dialogue.
"I guess he's out."
"Ill write a note — say we're at the creek, to come on down."
"We could tell Irene."
"But she's not here, either. You'd think she'd be around."
"Ought to be, by the look of the place."
"You said it, Bud. Just look at this table. You could write your
name — "
Evidently the last speaker had noticed that the cellar door was
ajar and that a light was shining below. Next moment the door
was pushed wide open and Bud and Buck looked down.
"Why, Doc! There you are!"
"Didn't you hear us yelling?"
The Doctor, not too pleased at what he had overheard, never-
theless smiled his rather wooden smile as his two friends made their
way down the steps. "I thought I heard someone," he said.
"We was bawling our heads off," Buck said. "Thought nobody
was home. Where's Irene?"
"Visiting," said the Doctor. "She's gone visiting."
"Hey, what goes on?" said Bud. "What are you doing? Burying
one of your patients, or what?"
"Oh, there's been water seeping up through the floor," said the
Doctor. "I figured it might be some spring opened up or some-
"You don't say!" said Bud, assuming instantly the high ethical
standpoint of the realtor. "Gee, Doc, I sold you this property.
Don't say I fixed you up with a dump where there's an under-
"There was water," said the Doctor.
"Yes, but, Doc, you can look on that geological map the Kiwanis
Club got up. There's not a better section of subsoil in the town."
 De Mortuis
"Looks like he sold you a pup," said Buck, grinning.
"No," said Bud. "Look. When the Doc came here he was green.
You'll admit he was green. The things he didn't know!"
"He bought Ted Webber's jalopy," said Buck.
"He'd have bought the Jessop place if I'd let him," said Bud.
"But I wouldn't give him a bum steer."
"Not the poor, simple city slicker from Poughkeepsie," said
"Some people would have taken him," said Bud. "Maybe some
people did. Not me. I recommended this property. He and Irene
moved straight in as soon as they was married. I wouldn't have put
the Doc on to a dump where there'd be a spring under the founda-
"Oh, forget it," said the Doctor, embarrassed by this conscien-
tiousness. "I guess it was just the heavy rains."
"By gosh!" Buck said, glancing at the besmeared point of the
pickaxe. "You certainly went deep enough. Right down into the
"That's four feet down, the clay," Bud said.
"Eighteen inches," said the Doctor.
"Four feet," said Bud. "I can show you on the map."
"Come on. No arguments," said Buck. "How's about it, Doc?
An hour or two at the creek, eh? They're biting."
"Can't do it, boys," said the Doctor. "I've got to see a patient or
"Aw, live and let live, Doc," Bud said. "Give 'em a chance
to get better. Are you going to depopulate the whole darn
The Doctor looked down, smiled, and muttered, as he always
did when this particular jest was trotted out. "Sorry, boys," he
said. "I can't make it."
"Well," said Bud, disappointed, "I suppose we'd better get
along. How's Irene?"
"Irene?" said the Doctor. "Never better. She's gone visiting.
Albany. Got the eleven-o'clock train."
"Eleven o'clock?" said Buck. "For Albany?"
"Did I say Albany?" said the Doctor. "Watertown, I meant."
"Friends in Watertown?" Buck asked.
"Mrs. Slater," said the Doctor. "Mr. and Mrs. Slater. Lived
De Mortuis ... 
next door to 'em when she was a kid, Irene said, over on Sycamore
"Slater?" said Bud. "Next door to Irene. No."
"Oh, yes," said the Doctor. "She was telling me all about them
last night. She got a letter. Seems this Mrs. Slater looked after her
when her mother was in the hospital one time."
"No," said Bud.
"That's what she told me," said the Doctor. "Of course, it was
a good many years ago."
"Look, Doc," said Buck. "Bud and I were raised in this town.
We've known Irene's folks all our lives. We were in and out of
their house all the time. There was never anybody next door called
"Perhaps," said the Doctor, "she married again, this woman.
Perhaps it was a different name."
Bud shook his head.
"What time did Irene go to the station?" Buck asked.
"Oh, about a quarter of an hour ago," said the Doctor.
"You didn't drive her?" said Buck.
"She walked," said the Doctor.
"We came down Main Street," Buck said. "We didn't meet her."
"Maybe she walked across the pasture," said the Doctor.
"That's a tough walk with a suitcase," said Buck.
"She just had a couple of things in a little bag," said the Doctor.
Bud was still shaking his head.
Buck looked at Bud, and then at the pick, at the new, damp
cement on the floor. "Jesus Christ!" he said.
"Oh, God, Doc!" Bud said. "A guy like you!"
"What in the name of heaven are you two bloody fools think-
ing?" asked the Doctor. "What are you trying to say?"
"A spring!" said Bud. "I ought to have known right away it
wasn't any spring."
The Doctor looked at his cement-work, at the pick, at the
large worried faces of his two friends. His own face turned livid.
"Am I crazy?" he said. "Or are you? You suggest that I've —
that Irene — my wife — oh, go on! Get out! Yes, go and get the
sheriff. Tell him to come here and start digging. You — get out!"
Bud and Buck looked at each other, shifted their feet, and stood
 De Mortuis
"Go on," said the Doctor.
"I don't know," said Bud.
"It's not as if he didn't have the provocation," Buck said.
"God knows," Bud said.
"God knows," Buck said. "You know. I know. The whole town
knows. But try telling it to a jury."
The Doctor put his hand to his head. "What's that?" he said.
"What is it? Now what are you saying? What do you mean?"
"If this ain't being on the spot!" said Buck. "Doc, you can see
how it is. It takes some thinking. We've been friends right from
the start. Damn good friends."
"But we've got to think," said Bud. "It's serious. Provocation
or not, there's a law in the land. There's such a thing as being an
"You were talking about provocation," said the Doctor.
"You're right," said Buck. "And you're our friend. And if ever it
could be called justified — "
"We've got to fix this somehow," said Bud.
"Justified?" said the Doctor.
"You were bound to get wised up sooner or later," said Buck.
"We could have told you," said Bud. "Only— what the hell?"
"We could," said Buck. "And we nearly did. Five years ago.
Before ever you married her. You hadn't been here six months,
but we sort of cottoned to you. Thought of giving you a hint.
Spoke about it. Remember, Bud?"
Bud nodded. "Funny," he said. "I came right out in the open
about that Jessop property. I wouldn't let you buy that, Doc. But
getting married, that's something else again. We could have told
"We're that much responsible," Buck said.
"I'm fifty," said the Doctor. "I suppose it's pretty old for Irene."
"If you was Johnny Weissmuller at the age of twenty-one, it
wouldn't make any difference," said Buck.
"I know a lot of people think she's not exactly a perfect wife,"
said the Doctor. "Maybe she's not. She's young. She's full of life."
"Oh, skip it!" said Buck sharply, looking at the raw cement.
"Skip it, Doc, for God's sake."
The Doctor brushed his hand across his face. "Not everybody
De Mortuis ... 
wants the same thing," he said. "I'm a sort of dry fellow. I don't
open up very easily. Irene — you'd call her gay."
"You said it," said Buck.
"She's no housekeeper," said the Doctor. "I know it. But that's
not the only thing a man wants. She's enjoyed herself."
"Yeah," said Buck. "She did."
"That's what I love," said the Doctor. "Because I'm not that
way myself. She's not very deep, mentally. All right. Say she's
stupid. I don't care. Lazy. No system. Well, I've got plenty of
system. She's enjoyed herself. It's beautiful. It's innocent. Like a
"Yes. If that was all," Buck said.
"But," said the Doctor, turning his eyes full on him, "you seem
to know there was more."
"Everybody knows it," said Buck.
"A decent, straightforward guy comes to a place like this and
marries the town floozy," Bud said bitterly. "And nobody '11 tell
him. Everybody just watches."
"And laughs," said Buck. "You and me, Bud, as well as the rest."
"We told her to watch her step," said Bud. "We warned her."
"Everybody warned her," said Buck. "But people get fed up.
When it got to truck-drivers — "
"It was never us, Doc," said Bud, earnestly. "Not after you
came along, anyway."
"The town'll be on your side," said Buck.
"That won't mean much when the case comes to trial in the
county seat," said Bud.
"Oh!" cried the Doctor, suddenly. "What shall I do? What shall
"It's up to you, Bud," said Buck. "I can't turn him in."
"Take it easy, Doc," said Bud. "Calm down. Look, Buck. When
we came in here the street was empty, wasn't it?"
"I guess so," said Buck. "Anyway, nobody saw us come down
"And we haven't been down," Bud said, addressing himself
forcefully to the Doctor. "Get that, Doc? We shouted upstairs,
hung around a minute or two, and cleared out. But we never
came down into this cellar."
 De Mortuis
"I wish you hadn't," the Doctor said heavily.
"All you have to do is say Irene went out for a walk and never
came back," said Buck. "Bud and I can swear we saw her headed
out of town with a fellow in a tan roadster. Everybody '11 believe
that, all right. We'll fix it. But later. Now we'd better scram."
"And remember. We was never down here," Bud said. "So
Buck and Bud ascended the steps, moving with a rather absurd
degree of caution. "You'd better get that . . . that thing covered
up," Buck said over his shoulder.
Left alone, the Doctor sat down on an empty box, holding his
head with both hands. He was still sitting like this when the porch
door slammed again. This time he did not start. He listened. The
house door opened and closed. A voice cried, "Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo!
The Doctor rose slowly to his feet. "I'm down here, Irene!" he
The cellar door opened. A young woman stood at the head of
the steps. "Can you beat it?" she said. "I missed the damn train."
"Oh!" said the Doctor. "Did you come back across the field?"
"Yes, like a fool," she said. "I could have hitched a ride and
caught the train up the line. Only I didn't think. If you'd run me
over to the junction, I could still make it."
"Maybe," said the Doctor. "Did you meet anyone coming
"Not a soul," she said. "Aren't you finished with that old job
"I'm afraid I'll have to take it all up again," said the Doctor.
"Come down here, my dear, and I'll show you."
!r^!r^^^ WET SA TURD A T !r^!r^^
IT WAS JULY. IN THE SPRAWLING HOUSE THEY WERE IMPRISONED
by the swish and the gurgle and all the hundred sounds of rain.
They were in the drawing room, behind four tall and weeping
windows, in a lake of damp and faded chintz.
This house, ill-kept and unprepossessing, was necessary to Mr.
Princey, who detested his wife, his daughter, and his hulking son.
His life was to walk through the village, touching his hat, not
smiling. His cold pleasure was to recapture snapshot memories of
the infinitely remote summers of his childhood — coming into the
orangery and finding his lost wooden horse, the tunnel in the box
hedge and the little square of light at the end of it. But now all
this was threatened — his austere pride of position in the village, his
passionate attachment to the house — and all because Millicent,
his cloddish daughter Millicent, had done this shocking and in-
credibly stupid thing. Mr. Princey turned from her in revulsion
and spoke to his wife.
"They'd send her to a lunatic asylum," he said. "A criminal-
lunatic asylum. We should have to move. It would be impossible."
His daughter began to shake again. "I'll kill myself," she said.
"Be quiet," said Mr. Princey. "We have very little time. No
time for nonsense. I intend to deal with this." He called'to his son,
who stood looking out of the window. "George, come here. Listen,
how far did you get with your medicine before they threw you out
"You know as well as I do," said George.
"Do you know enough — did they drive enough into your head
for you to be able to guess what a competent doctor could tell
about such awound?"
"Well, it's a— it's a knock or blow."
"If a tile fell from the roof? Or a piece of the coping?"
"Well, guv'nor, you see, it's like this — "
"Is it possible?"
Wet Saturday [ 21 ]
"Oh, because she hit him several times."
"I can't stand it," said Mrs. Princey.
"You have got to stand it, my dear," said her husband. "And
keep that hysterical note out of your voice. It might be overheard.
We are talking about the weather. If he fell down the well, George,
striking his head several times?"
"I really don't know, guv'nor."
"He'd have had to hit the sides several times in thirty or forty
feet, and at the correct angles. No. I'm afraid not. We must go
over it all again. Millicent."
"Millicent, we must go over it all again. Perhaps you have for-
gotten something. One tiny irrelevant detail may save or ruin us.
Particularly you, Millicent. You don't want to be put in an asy-
lum, do you? Or be hanged? They might hang you, Millicent. You
must stop that shaking. You must keep your voice quiet. We are
talking of the weather. Now."
"I can't. I . . . I . . ."
"Be quiet, child. Be quiet." He put his long, cold face very near
to his daughter's. He found himself horribly revolted by her. Her
features were thick, her jaw heavy, her whole figure repellently
powerful. "Answer me," he said. "You were in the stable?"
"One moment, though. Who knew you were in love with this
"No one. I've never said a — "
"Don't worry," said George. "The whole god-damned village
knows. They've been sniggering about it in the Plough for three
"Likely enough," said Mr. Princey. "Likely enough. What filth!"
He made as if to wipe something off the backs of his hands. "Well,
now, we continue. You were in the stable?"
"You were putting the croquet set into its box?"
"You heard someone crossing the yard?"
"It was Withers?"
"So you called him?"
 Wet Saturday
"Loudly? Did you call him loudly? Could anyone have heard?"
"No, Father. I'm sure not. I didn't call him. He saw me as I
went to the door. He just waved his hand and came over."
"How can I find out from you whether there was anyone about?
Whether he could have been seen?"
"I'm sure not, Father. I'm quite sure."
"So you both went into the stable?"
"Yes. It was raining hard."
"What did he say?"
"He said 'Hullo, Milly.' And to excuse him coming in the back
way, but he'd set out to walk over to Lyston."
"And he said, passing the park, he'd seen the house and sud-
denly thought of me, and he thought he'd just look in for a minute,
just to tell me something. He said he was so happy, he wanted me
to share it. He'd heard from the Bishop he was to have the vicar-
age. And it wasn't only that. It meant he could marry. And he
began to stutter. And I thought he meant me."
"Don't tell me what you thought. Exactly what he said. Noth-
"Well ... Oh dear!"
"Don't cry. It is a luxury you cannot afford. Tell me."
"He said no. He said it wasn't me. It's Ella Brangwyn-Davies.
And he was sorry. And all that. Then he went to go."
"I went mad. He turned his back. I had the winning post of the
croquet set in my hand — "
"Did you shout or scream? I mean, as you hit him?"
"No. I'm sure I didn't."
"Did he? Come on. Tell me.'*
"I threw it down. I came straight into the house. That's all. I
wish I were dead!"
"And you met none of the servants. No one will go into the
stable. You see, George, he probably told people he was going to
Lyston. Certainly no one knows he came here. He might have
been attacked in the woods. We must consider every detail. . . .
A curate, with his head battered in — "
Wet Saturday 
"Don't, Father!" cried Millicent.
"Do you want to be hanged? A curate, with his head battered in,
found in the woods. Who'd want to kill Withers?"
There was a tap on the door, which opened immediately. It was
little Captain Smollett, who never stood on ceremony. "Who'd
kill Withers?" said he. "I would, with pleasure. How d'you do,
Mrs. Princey. I walked right in."
"He heard you, Father," moaned Millicent.
"My dear, we can all have our litle joke," said her father. "Don't
pretend to be shocked. A little theoretical curate-killing, Smollett.
In these days we talk nothing but thrillers."
"Parsonicide," said Captain Smollett. "Justifiable parsonicide.
Have you heard about Ella Brangwyn-Davies? I shall be laughed
"Why?" said Mr. Princey. "Why should you be laughed at?"
"Had a shot in that direction myself," said Smollett, with care-
ful sang-froid. "She half said yes, too. Hadn't you heard? She told
most people. Now it'll look as if I got turned down for a white
rat in a dog collar."
"Too bad!" said Mr. Princey.
"Fortune of war," said the little Captain.
"Sit down," said Mr. Princey. "Mother, Millicent, console Cap-
tain Smollett with your best light conversation. George and I have
something to look to. We shall be back in a minute or two, Smol-
lett. Come, George."
It was actually five minutes before Mr. Princey and his son
"Smollett," said Mr. Princey, "will you come round to the stable
for a moment? There's something I want to show you."
They went into the stable yard. The buildings were now unused
except as odd sheds. No one ever went there. Captain Smollett
entered, George followed him, Mr. Princey came last. As he closed
the door he took up a gun which stood behind it. "Smollett," said
he, "we have come out to shoot a rat which George heard squeak-
ing under that tub. Now, you must listen to me very carefully or
you will be shot by accident. I mean that."
Smollett looked at him. "Very well," said he. "Go on."
"A very tragic happening has taken place this afternoon," said
Mr. Princey. "It will be even more tragic unless it is smoothed
 Wet Saturday
"Oh?" said Smollett.
"You heard me ask," said Mr. Princey, "who would kill Withers.
You heard Millicent make a comment, an unguarded comment."
"Well?" said Smollett. "What of it?"
"Very little," said Mr. Princey. "Unless you heard that Withers
had met a violent end this very afternoon. And that, my dear
Smollett, is what you are going to hear."
"Have you killed him?" cried Smollett.
"Millicent has," said Mr. Princey.
"Hell!" said Smollett.
"It is hell," said Mr. Princey. "You would have remembered —
"Maybe," said Smollett. "Yes. I suppose I should."
"Therefore," said Mr. Princey, "you constitute a problem."
"Why did she kill him?" said Smollett.
"It is one of these disgusting things," said Mr. Princey. "Piti-
able, too. She deluded herself that he was in love with her."
"Oh, of course," said Smollett.
"And he told her about the Brangwyn-Davies girl."
"I see," said Smollett.
"I have no wish," said Mr. Princey, "that she should be proved
either a lunatic or a murderess. I could hardly live here after
"I suppose not," said Smollett.
"On the other hand," said Mr. Princey, "you know about it."
"Yes," said Smollett. "I am wondering if I could keep my mouth
shut. If I promised you — "
"I am wondering if I could believe you," said Mr. Princey.
"If I promised," said Smollett.
"If things went smoothly," said Mr. Princey. "But not if there
was any sort of suspicion, any questioning. You would be afraid
of being an accessory."
"I don't know," said Smollett.
"I do," said Mr. Princey. "What are we going to do?"
"I can't see anything else," said Smollett. "You'd never be fool
enough to do me in. You can't get rid of two corpses."
"I regard it," said Mr. Princey, "as a better risk than the other.
It could be an accident. Or you and Withers could both disappear.
There are possibilities in that."
"Listen," said Smollett. "You can't—"
Wet Saturday 
"Listen," said Mr. Princey. "There may be a way out. There is
a way out, Smollett. You gave me the idea yourself."
"Did I?" said Smollett. "What?"
"You said you would kill Withers," said Mr. Princey. "You have
"I was joking," said Smollett.
"You are always joking," said Mr. Princey. "People think there
must be something behind it. Listen, Smollett, I can't trust you,
you must trust me. Or I will kill you now, in the next minute. I
mean that. You can choose between dying and living."
"Go on," said Smollett.
"There is a sewer here," said Mr. Princey, speaking fast and
forcefully. "That is where I am going to put Withers. No outsider
knows he has come up here this afternoon. No one will ever look
there for him unless you tell them. You must give me evidence
that you have murdered Withers."
"Why?" said Smollett.
"So that I shall be dead sure that you will never open your lips
on the matter," said Mr. Princey.
"What evidence?" said Smollett.
"George," said Mr. Princey, "hit him in the face, hard."
"Good God!" said Smollett.
"Again," said Mr. Princey. "Don't bruise your knuckles."
"Oh!" said Smollett.
"I'm sorry," said Mr. Princey. "There must be traces of a strug-
gle between you and Withers. Then it will not be altogether safe
for you to go to the police."
"Why won't you take my word?" said Smollett.
"I will when we've finished," said Mr. Princey. "George, get that
croquet post. Take your handkerchief to it. As I told you. Smol-
lett, you'll just grasp the end of this croquet post. I shall shoot
you if you don't."
"Oh, hell," said Smollett. "All right."
"Pull two hairs out of his head, George," said Mr. Princey, "and
remember what I told you to do with them. Now, Smollett, you
take that bar and raise the big flagstone with the ring in it. Withers
is in the next stall. You've got to drag him through and dump
"I won't touch him," said Smollett.
"Stand back, George," said Mr. Princey, raising his gun.
 Wet Saturday
"Wait a minute," cried Smollett. "Wait a minute." He did as he
Mr. Princey wiped his brow. "Look here," said he. "Everything
is perfectly safe. Remember, no one knows that Withers came
here. Everyone thinks he walked over to Lyston. That's five miles
of country to search. They'll never look in our sewer. Do you see
how safe it is?"
"I suppose it is," said Smollett.
"Now come into the house," said Mr. Princey. "We shall never
get that rat."
They went into the house. The maid was bringing tea into the
drawing room. "See, my dear," said Mr. Princey to his wife, "we
went to the stable to shoot a rat and we found Captain Smollett.
Don't be offended, my dear fellow."
"You must have walked up the back drive," said Mrs. Princey.
"Yes. Yes. That was it," said Smollett in some confusion.
"You've cut your lip," said George, handing him a cup of tea.
"I ... I just knocked it."
"Shall I tell Bridget to bring some iodine?" said Mrs. Princey.
The maid looked up, waiting.
"Don't trouble, please," said Smollett. "It's nothing."
"Very well, Bridget," said Mrs. Princey. "That's all."
"Smollett is very kind," said Mr. Princey. "He knows all our
trouble. We can rely on him. We have his word."
"Oh, have we, Captain Smollett?" cried Mrs. Princey. "You are
"Don't worry, old fellow," Mr. Princey said. "They'll never find
Pretty soon Smollett took his leave. Mrs. Princey pressed his
hand very hard. Tears came into her eyes. All three of them
watched him go down the drive. Then Mr. Princey spoke very
earnestly to his wife for a few minutes and the two of them went
upstairs and spoke still more earnestly to Millicent. Soon after,
the rain having ceased, Mr. Princey took a stroll round the stable
He came back and went to the telephone. "Put me through to
Lyston police station," said he. "Quickly . . . Hullo, is that the
police station? This is Mr. Princey, of Abbott's Laxton. I'm afraid
something rather terrible has happened up here. Can you send
someone at once?"
?jil?j?UjfjUjf»UjfjUff^ LITTLE MEMENTO !!^!^^^
A YOUNG MAN WHO WAS WALKING FAST CAME OUT OF A DEEP LANE
onto a wide hilltop space, where there was a hamlet clustered about
a green. The setting encompassed a pond, ducks, the Waggoner
Inn, with white paint and swinging sign; in fact, all the fresh, clean,
quiet, ordinary appurtenances of an upland Somerset hamlet.
The road went on, and so did the young man, over to the very
brink of the upland, where a white gate gave upon a long garden
well furnished with fruit trees, and at the end of it a snug little
house sheltered by a coppice and enjoying a view over the vast
vale below. An old man of astonishingly benevolent appearance
was pottering about in the garden. He looked up as the hiker, Eric
Gaskell, approached his gate.
"Good morning," said he. "A fine September morning!"
"Good morning," said Eric Gaskell.
"I have had my telescope out this morning," said the old man.
"I don't often get down the hill these days. The way back is a little
too steep for me. Still, I have my view and my telescope. I think
I know all that goes on."
"Well, that's very nice," said Eric.
"It is," said the old man. "You are Mr. Gaskell?"
"Yes," said Eric. "I know. We met at the vicarage."
"We did," said the old man. "You often take your walk this way.
I see you go by. Today I thought, 'Now this is the day for a little
chat with young Mr. Gaskell!' Come in."
"Thanks," said Eric. "I will, for a spell."
"And how," said the old man, opening his gate, "do you and Mrs.
Gaskell like Somerset?"
"Enormously," said Eric
"My housekeeper tells me," said the old man, "that you come
from the East Coast. Very bracing. Her niece is your little maid.
You don't find it too dull here? Too backward? Too old-fash-
Little Memento 
"We like that part of it best," said Eric, sitting with his host on
a white seat under one of the apple trees.
"In these days," said the old man, "young people like old-
fashioned things. That's a change from my day. Now most of us
who live about here are old codgers, you know. There's Captain
Felton, of course, but the Vicar, the Admiral, Mr. Coperus, and the
rest — all old codgers. You don't mind that?"
"I like it," said Eric.
"We have our hobbies," said the old man. "Coperus is by way of
being an antiquarian; the Admiral has his roses."
"And you have your telescope," said Eric.
"Ah, my telescope," said the old man. "Yes, yes, I have my
telescope. But my principal pastime — what I really plume myself
on — is my museum."
"You have a museum?" said Eric.
"Yes, a museum," said the old man. "I should like you to have
a look at it and tell me what you think."
"I shall be delighted," said Eric.
"Then come right in," said the old man, leading him toward the
house. "I seldom have the chance of showing my collection to a
newcomer. You must bring Mrs. Gaskell one of these days. Does
she find enough entertainment in this quiet part, do you think?"
"She loves it," said Eric. "She can't see too much of the country
here. She drives out almost every day in her little red roadster."
"All by herself," said the old man. "Does she like the house?"
"Well, I don't know," said Eric. "She did when we chose it last
spring. She liked it very much."
"It is a very nice house," said the old man.
"She finds it a little oppressive lately, I'm afraid," said Eric.
"She says she has to get out to breathe."
"It is the diiference in the air," said the old man. "After living
on the East Coast."
"Probably it's that," said Eric.
By this time they had reached the front door. The old man ush-
ered Eric in. They entered a very snug, trim little room, the furni-
ture all well polished and everything meticulously arranged. "This
is my little sitting room," the old man said. "My dining room, too,
these days. The drawing room and the little study beyond I have
given over entirely to my museum. Here we are."
 Little Memento
He threw open a door. Eric stepped in, looked around, and
stared in amazement. He had been expecting the usual sort of
thing: a neat cabinet or two with Roman coins, flint implements,
a snake in alcohol, perhaps a stuffed bird or some eggs. But this
room and the study, seen through the connecting doorway, were
piled high with the most broken, battered, frowzy, gimcrack col-
lection of junk he had ever seen in his life. What was oddest of all
was that no item in this muddle of rubbish had even the excuse
of a decent antiquity. It was as if several cartloads of miscellane-
ous material had been collected from the village dump and spilled
over the tables, sideboards, chairs, and floors of these two rooms.
The old man observed Eric's astonishment with the greatest
good humor. "You are thinking," said he, "that this collection is
not the sort of thing one usually finds in a museum. You are right.
But let me tell you, Mr. Gaskell, that every object here has a his-
tory. These pieces are pebbles rolled and broken by the stream of
time as it flows over the villages in our quiet little district. Taken
together, they are a — a record. Here is a souvenir from the War:
a telegram to the Bristows in Upper Medium, saying their boy was
killed. It was years before I could get that from poor Mrs. Bristow.
I gave her a pound for it."
"Very interesting," said Eric.
"That wheelbarrow," said the old man, pointing out a splintered
wreck, "was the cause of two deaths. It rolled down a bank into
the lane here just as a car was coming along. It was in all the
papers. 'Local Tragedy.' "
"Extraordinary!" said Eric.
"It all makes up life," said the old man. "Here is a belt dropped
by one of the Irish haymakers when they fought the gipsies. This
hat belonged to the man who had Church Farm, near you. He won
a prize in the Irish Sweep and drank himself to death, poor fellow!
These are bricks from my gardener's cottage. It burned down, you
know, and nobody knows how the fire started. This is a snake
which somehow got into the church during service last year. Cap-
tain Felton killed it. He's a very handsome man, don't you think?"
"Yes. I suppose so. I hardly know him."
"That's funny. I thought you and Mrs. Gaskell were very great
friends of Captain Felton."
"What gave you that idea?"
Little Memento [ 31 ]
"Perhaps it was just my fancy. Here is a rather sad exhibit.
These horns came from a bull that Farmer Lawson put into my
meadow. Somebody left the gate open; it got out and gored a man
on the road."
"We scarcely know Captain Felton," said Eric. "We met him
when first we came here, but — "
"Quite, quite," said the old man. "Here is an anonymous letter.
We have them now and then in this district, as in most places.
Mr. Coperus gave me this."
"Are they usually well founded, the hints in your local brand of
anonymous letters?" asked Eric.
"I believe they are," said the old man. "Someone seems to know
what goes on. Here's something that I fear won't last very long:
a giant puffball from the graveyard. They grow larger there than
anywhere else. Feel how light it is."
He thrust it toward Eric. Eric had been fumbling with his pipe
and tobacco pouch and now put them down to take the puffball.
"Very light," said he. "Wonderful."
"Come through here," cried the old man eagerly. "I was forget-
ting my boots." Eric followed him, still carrying the giant fungus.
"These boots," said the old man, "came off a tramp found drowned
in a pond. That little pond near Captain Felton's house."
"What does Felton do?" asked Eric.
"He has an income," said the old man. "He amuses himself."
"What is his amusement?" said Eric very casually.
"I'm afraid," said the old man, with a twinkle, "that Captain
Felton is rather one for the ladies."
"Indeed?" said Eric.
"There are stories," said the old man. "The Captain is very dis-
creet, but — you know how it is. That big crystal up there — that
was found in the quarry half a mile down our little road here.
Well now, that quarry has been out of use for many years. You
can drive into it from the road, and I'm told the Captain finds it a
very secluded rendezvous. Dear me, I ought not to gossip. But the
fact is the shepherd boys have been known to look over the top,
and of course stories get round. People love to chuckle over such
matters. I'm afraid that someday one of the worthy gentlemen
whose domestic relations the Captain has, so to speak, trespassed
upon will look over the top and — well, there are some very large
 Little Memento
stones lying about. Here is a cat I had stuffed. Now there is a very
extraordinary story connected with this cat."
"Tell me," said Eric, "is Felton here now or is he away?"
"He's here," said the old man. "I saw his car go by only an hour
ago. It's a red car. One doesn't often see a red car, though as a mat-
ter of fact another red one came by just after his."
"I — I think I must be off," said Eric.
"Must you go?" said the old man. "I was just going to tell you
about this unhappy cat."
"Another time," said Eric.
"Another time then," said the old man. "I shall always be de-
lighted. Let me see you to the gate."
Eric hurried through the gate.
"You are not going back the way you came?" said the old man.
"No. No. I have to go round this way," said Eric.
"That will lead you past the Captain's quarry," said the old
man. "Well, goodbye. Come again soon."
He watched Eric stride rapidly down the road and even climbed
a bank to watch him farther. When he saw him leave the road and
strike over the face of the down, toward the upper lip of the quarry,
he went placidly back to his museum.
There he took up Eric's pipe and tobacco pouch and fondled
them with infinite affection. It was quite a long time before he
could bring himself to place them carefully on a shelf and return
to his pottering in the garden.
JJIJfjKjM^ MARY jW¥??»¥f»M!tfMt!?W?»W?W¥??ty?W??tm
THERE WAS IN THOSE DAYS 1 HOPE IT IS THERE STILL A VILLAGE
called Ufferleigh, lying all among the hills and downs of North
Hampshire. In every cottage garden there was a giant apple tree,
and when these trees were hung red with fruit, and the newly lifted
potatoes lay gleaming between bean-row and cabbage-patch, a
young man walked into the village who had never been there before.
He stopped in the lane just under Mrs. Hedges's gate, and looked
up into her garden. Rosie, who was picking the beans, heard his
tentative cough, and turned and leaned over the hedge to hear
what he wanted. "I was wondering," said he, "if there was anybody
in the village who had a lodging to let."
He looked at Rosie, whose cheeks were redder than the apples,
and whose hair was the softest yellow imaginable. "I was wonder-
ing," said he in amendment, "if you had."
Rosie looked back at him. He wore a blue jersey such as sea-
faring men wear, but he seemed hardly like a seafaring man. His
face was brown and plain and pleasant, and his hair was black.
He was shabby and he was shy, but there was something about
him that made it very certain he was not just a tramp. "I'll ask,"
With that she ran for her mother, and Mrs. Hedges came out
to interview the young man. "I've got to be near Andover for a
week," said he, "but somehow I didn't fancy staying right in the
"There's a bed," said Mrs. Hedges. "If you don't mind having
your meals with us "
"Why, surely, ma'am," said he. "There's nothing I'd like better."
Everything was speedily arranged; Rosie picked another handful
of beans, and in an hour he was seated with them at supper. He
told them his name was Fred Baker, but, apart from that, he was
so polite that he could hardly speak, and in the end Mrs. Hedges
had to ask him outright what his business was. "Why, ma'am,"
said he, looking her straight in the face, "I've done one thing and
another ever since I was so high, but I heard an old proverb once,
how to get on in the world. Teed 'em or amuse 'em/ it said. So
that's what I do, ma'am. I travel with a pig."
Mrs. Hedges said she had never heard of such a thing.
"You surprise me," said he. "Why, there are some in London,
they tell me, making fortunes on the halls. Spell, count, add up,
answer questions, anything. But let them wait," said he, smiling,
"till they see Mary."
"Is that the name of your pig?" asked Rosie.
"Well," said Fred, shyly, "it's what I call her just between our-
selves like. To her public, she's Zola. Sort of Frenchified, I thought.
Spicy, if you'll excuse the mention of it. But in the caravan I call
"You live in a caravan?" cried Rosie, delighted by the doll's-
"We do," said he. "She has her bunk, and I have mine."
"I don't think I should like that," said Mrs. Hedges. "Not a pig.
"She's as clean," said he, "as a new-born babe. And as for com-
pany, well, you'd say she's human. All the same, it's a bit of a
wandering life for her — up hill and down dale, as the saying goes.
Between you and me I shan't be satisfied till I get into one of these
big London theatres. You can see us in the West End!"
"I should like the caravan best," said Rosie, who seemed to have
a great deal to say for herself, all of a sudden.
"It's pretty," said Fred. "Curtains, you know. Pot of flowers.
Little stove. Somehow I'm used to it. Can't hardly think of myself
staying at one of them big hotels. Still, Mary's got her career to
think of. I can't stand in the way of her talent, so that's that."
"Is she big?" asked Rosie.
"It's not her size," said he. "No more than Shirley Temple. It's
her brains and personality. Clever as a wagonload of monkeys!
You'd like her. She'd like you, I reckon. Yes, I reckon she would.
Sometimes I'm afraid I'm a bit slow by way of company for her,
never having had much to do with the ladies."
"Don't tell me," said Mrs. Hedges archly, as convention re-
""' Tis so, ma'am," said he. "Always on the move, you see, ever
since I was a nipper. Baskets and brooms, pots and pans, then some
acrobat stuff, then Mary. Never two days in the same place. It
don't give you the time to get acquainted."
"You're going to be here a whole week, though," said Rosie
artlessly, but at once her red cheeks blushed a hundred times
redder than before, for Mrs. Hedges gave her a sharp look, which
made her see that her words might have been taken the wrong way.
Fred, however, had noticed nothing. "Yes," said he, "I shall be
here a week. And why? Mary ran a nail in her foot in the market-
place, Andover. Finished her act — and collapsed. Now she's at the
vet's, poor creature."
"Oh, poor thing!" cried Rosie.
"I was half afraid," said he, "it was going wrong on her. But it
seems she'll pull round all right, and I took opportunity to have
the van repaired a bit, and soon we'll be on the road again. I shall
go in and see her tomorrow. Maybe I can find some blackberries,
to take her by way of a relish, so to speak."
"Colley Bottom," said Rosie. "That's the place where they grow
big and juicy."
"Ah! If I knew where it was — " said Fred tentatively.
"Perhaps, in the morning, if she's got time, she'll show you,"
said Mrs. Hedges, who began to feel very kindly disposed towards
the young man.
In the morning, surely enough, Rosie did have time, and she
showed Fred the place, and helped him pick the berries. Returning
from Andover, later in the day, Fred reported that Mary had
tucked into them a fair treat, and he had little doubt that, if she
could have spoken, she would have sent her special thanks. Noth-
ing is more affecting than the gratitude of a dumb animal, and
Rosie was impelled to go every morning with Fred to pick a few
more berries for the invalid pig.
On these excursions Fred told her a great deal more about Mary,
a bit about the caravan, and a little about himself. She saw that
he was very bold and knowing in some ways, but incredibly simple
and shy in others. This, she felt, showed he had a good heart.
The end of the week seemed to come very soon, and all at once
they were coming back from Colley Bottom for the last time.
Fred said he would never forget Ufferleigh, nor the nice time he
"You ought to send us a postcard when you're on your travels,"
"Yes," he said. "That's an idea. I will."
"Yes, do," said Rosie.
"Yes," said he again. "I will. Do you know, I was altogether
downhearted at going away, but now I'm half wishing I was on the
road again already. So I could be sending that card right away,"
"At that rate," said Rosie, looking the other way, "you might
as well make it a letter."
"Ah!" said he. "And do you know what I should feel like putting
at the bottom of that letter? If you was my young lady, that is.
Which, of course, you're not. Me never having had one."
"What?" said Rosie.
"A young lady," said he.
"But what would you put?" said she.
"Ah!" said he. "What I'd put. Do you know what I'd put? If—
if, mind you — if you was my young lady?"
"No," said she, "what?"
"I don't hardly like to tell you," said he.
"Go on," she said. "You don't want to be afraid."
"All right," said he. "Only mind you, it's if" And with his stick
he traced three crosses in the dust.
"If I was anybody's young lady," said Rosie. "I shouldn't see
anything wrong in that. After all, you've got to move with the
Neither of them said another word, for two of the best reasons
in the world. First, they were unable to; second, it was not neces-
sary. They walked on with their faces as red as fire, in an agony
Fred had a word with Mrs. Hedges, who had taken a fancy to
him from the start. Not that she had not always looked down
upon caravan people, and could have been knocked over with a
feather, had anyone suggested, at any earlier date, that she would
allow a daughter of hers to marry into such a company. But right
was right: this Fred Baker was different, as anyone with half an
eye could see. He had kept himself to himself, almost to a fault,
for his conversation showed that he was as innocent as a new-born
babe. Moreover, several knowledgeable people in the village had
agreed that his ambitions for Mary, his pig, were in no way un-
justified. Everyone had heard of such talented creatures, reclining
on snow-white sheets in the best hotels of the metropolis, drinking
champagne like milk, and earning for their fortunate owners ten
pounds, or even twenty pounds, a week.
So Mrs. Hedges smilingly gave her consent, and Rosie became
Fred's real, genuine, proper young lady. He was to save all he
could during the winter, and she to stitch and sing. In the spring,
he would come back and they were to get married.
"At Easter," said he.
"No," said Mrs. Hedges, counting on her fingers. "In May. Then
tongues can't wag, caravan or no caravan."
Fred had not the faintest idea what she was driving at, for he
had lived so much alone that no one had told him certain things
that every young man should know. However, he well realized that
this was an unusually short engagement for UfTerleigh, and repre-
sented a great concession to the speed and dash of the entertain-
ment industry, so he respectfully agreed, and set off on his travels.
My Darling Rosie,
Well here we are in Painswick having had a good night Saturday
at Evesham. Mary cleverer than ever that goes without saying
now spells four new words thirty-six in all and when I say now
Mary how do you like Painswick or Evesham or wherever it is she
picks FINE it goes down very well. She is in the best of health and
I hope you are the same. Seems to understand every word I say
more like a human being every day. Well I suppose I must be
getting our bit of supper ready she always sets up her cry for that
specially when I am writing to you.
With true love
In May the apple trees were all in bloom, so it was an apple-
blossom wedding, which in those parts is held to be an assurance of
flowery days. Afterwards they took the bus to the market town,
to pick up the caravan, which stood in a stable yard. On the way
Fred asked Rosie to wait a moment, and dived into a confectioner's
shop. He came out with a huge box of chocolates. Rosie smiled all
over her face with joy. "For me?" she said.
"Yes," said he. "To give to her as soon as she claps eyes on you.
They're her weakness. I want you two to be real pals."
"All right," said Rosie, who was the best-hearted girl in the
The next moment they turned into the yard: there was the cara-
van. "Oh, it's lovely!" cried Rosie.
"Now you'll see her," said Fred.
At the sound of his voice a falsetto squeal rose from within.
"Here we are, old lady," said Fred, opening the door. "Here's a
friend of mine come to help look after you. Look, she's brought you
something you'll fancy."
Rosie saw a middle-sized pig, flesh-colored, neat, and with a
smart collar. It had a small and rather calculating eye. Rosie
offered the chocolates: they were accepted without any very effu-
Fred put the old horse in, and soon they were off, jogging up the
long hills to the west. Rosie sat beside Fred on the driving seat;
Mary took her afternoon nap. Soon the sky began to redden where
the road divided the woods on the far hill-top. Fred turned into a
green lane, and they made their camp.
He lit the stove, and Rosie put on the potatoes. They took a lot
of peeling, for it seemed that Mary ate with gusto. Rosie put a
gigantic rice pudding into the oven, and soon had the rest of the
Fred set the table. He laid three places.
"I say," said Rosie.
"What?" said Fred.
"Does she eat along with us?" said Rosie. "A pig?"
Fred turned quite pale. He beckoned her outside the caravan.
"Don't say a thing like that," said he. "She won't never take to
you if you say a thing like that. Didn't you see her give you a
"Yes, I did," said Rosie. "All the same — Well, never mind, Fred.
I don't care, really. I just thought I did."
"You wait," said Fred. "You're thinking of ordinary pigs.
Certainly Mary seemed a comparatively tidy eater. All the
same, she gave Rosie one or two very odd glances from under her
silky straw-colored lashes. She seemed to hock her rice pudding
about a bit with the end of her nose.
"What's up, old girl?" said Fred. "Didn't she put enough sugar
in the pudden? Never mind — can't get everything right first time."
Mary, with a rather cross hiccup, settled herself on her bunk.
"Let's go out," said Rosie, "and have a look at the moon."
"I suppose we might," said Fred. "Shan't be long, Mary. Just
going about as far as that gate down the lane." Mary grunted
morosely and turned her face to the wall.
Rosie and Fred went out and leaned over the gate. The moon,
at least was all that it should be.
"Seems funny, being married and all," said Rosie softly.
"Seems all right to me," said Fred.
"Remember them crosses you drew in the dirt in the road that
day?" said Rosie.
"That I do," said Fred.
"And all them you put in the letters?" said Rosie.
"All of 'em," said Fred.
"Kisses, that's what they're supposed to stand for," said Rosie.
"So they say," said Fred.
"You haven't given me one, not since we was married," said
Rosie. "Don't you like it?"
"That I do," said Fred. "Only, I don't know "
"What?" said Rosie.
"It makes me feel all queer," said Fred, "when I kiss you. As if
I wanted "
"What?" said Rosie.
"I dunno," said Fred. "I don't know if it's I want to eat you all
up, or what."
"Try and find out, they say," said Rosie.
A delicious moment followed. In the very middle of it a piercing
squeal rose from the caravan. Fred jumped as if he were shot.
"Oh dear," he cried. "She's wondering what's up. Here I come,
old girl! Here I come! It's her bed-time, you see. Here I come to
tuck you in!"
Mary, with an air of some petulance, permitted this process.
Rosie stood by. "I suppose we'd better make it lights out," said
Fred. "She likes a lot of sleep, you see, being a brain worker."
"Where do we sleep?" said Rosie.
"I made the bunk all nice for you this morning," said Fred. "Me,
I'm going to doss below. A sack full of straw, I've got."
"But—" said Rosie. "But "
"But what?" said he.
"Nothing," said she. "Nothing."
They turned in. Rosie lay for an hour or two, thinking what
thoughts I don't know. Perhaps she thought how charming it was
that Fred should have lived so simple and shy and secluded all
these years, and yet be so knowing about so many things, and yet
Mary [ 41 ]
be so innocent, and never have been mixed up in bad company — It
is impossible to say what she thought.
In the end she dozed off, only to be wakened by a sound like the
bagpipes of the devil himself. She sat up, terrified. It was Mary.
"What's up? What's up?" Fred's voice came like the ghost's in
Hamlet from under the floor. "Give her some milk," he said.
Rosie poured out a bowl of milk. Mary ceased her fiendish racket
while she drank, but the moment Rosie had blown out the light,
and got into bed again, she began a hundred times worse than
There were rumblings under the caravan. Fred appeared in the
doorway, half dressed and with a straw in his hair.
"She will have me," he said, in great distress.
"Can't you — Can't you lie down here?" said Rosie.
"What? And you sleep below? said Fred, astounded.
"Yes," said Rosie, after a rather long pause. "And me sleep be-
Fred was overwhelmed with gratitude and remorse. Rosie
couldn't help feeling sorry for him. She even managed to give him
a smile before she went down to get what rest she could on the
sack of straw.
In the morning, she woke feeling rather dejected. There was a
mighty breakfast to be prepared for Mary; afterwards Fred drew
"Look here," he said. "This won't do. I can't have you sleeping
on the ground, worse than a gippo. I'll tell you what I'm going to
do. I'm going to get up my acrobat stuff again. I used to make a
lot that way, and I like it fine. Hand springs, double somersaults,
bit of conjuring: it went down well. Only I didn't have time to
keep in practice with Mary to look after. But if you'd do the look-
ing after her, we'd make it a double turn, and soon we'd have a
good bit of cash. And then "
"Yes?" said Rosie.
"Then," said Fred, "I could buy you a trailer."
"All right," said Rosie, and turned away. Suddenly she turned
back with her face flaming. "You may know a lot about pigs," she
said bitterly. "And about somersaults, and conjuring and baskets
and brooms and I don't know what-all. But there's one thing you
don't know." And with that she went off and cried behind a hedge.
After a while she got the upper hand of it, and came back to the
caravan. Fred showed her how to give Mary her morning bath,
then the depilatory — that was very hard on the hands — then the
rubbing with Cleopatra Face Cream — and not on her face merely
— then the powdering, then the manicuring and polishing of her
Rosie, resolved to make the best of it, conquered her repug-
nance, and soon mastered these handmaidenly duties. She was
relieved at first that the spoiled pig accepted her ministrations
without protest. Then she noticed the gloating look in its eye.
However, there was no time to brood about that. No sooner was
the toilet finished than it was time to prepare the enormous lunch.
After lunch Mary had her little Avalk, except on Saturdays when
there was an afternoon show, then she took her rest. Fred explained
that during this period she liked to be talked to, and have her back
scratched a bit. Mary had quite clearly decided that in future she
was going to have it scratched a lot. Then she had her massage.
Then tea, then another little walk, or the evening show, according
to where they were, and then it was time to prepare dinner. At the
end of the day Rosie was thankful to curl up on her poor sack of
When she thought of the bunk above, and Fred, and his sim-
plicity, her heart was fit to break. The only thing was, she loved
him dearly, and she felt that if they could soon snatch an hour
alone together, they might kiss a little more, and a ray of light
might dispel the darkness of excessive innocence.
Each new day she watched for that hour, but it didn't come.
Mary saw to that. Once or twice Rosie suggested a little stroll, but
at once the hateful pig grumbled some demand or other that kept
her hard at work till it was too late. Fred, on his side, was busy
enough with his practising. He meant it so well, and worked so
hard — but what did it lead to? A trailer!
As the days went by, she found herself more and more the slave
of this arrogant grunter. Her back ached, her hands got chapped
and red, she never had a moment to make herself look nice, and
never a moment alone with her beloved. Her dress was spotted
and spoiled, her smile was gone, her temper was going. Her pretty
hair fell in elf locks and tangles, and she had neither time nor heart
to comb it.
She tried to come to an explanation with Fred, but it was noth-
ing but cross purposes and then cross words. He tried in a score of
little ways to show that he loved her: these seemed to her a mere
mockery, and she gave him short answers. Then he stopped, and
she thought he loved her no longer. Even worse, she felt she no
longer loved him.
So the whole summer went by, and things got worse and worse,
and you would have taken her for a gipsy indeed.
The blackberries were ripe again; she found a whole brake of
them. When she tasted one, all sorts of memories flooded into her
heart: she went and found Fred. "Fred," she said, ''the black-
berries are ripe again. I've brought you one or two." She held out
some in her grubby hand. Fred took them and tasted them; she
watched to see what the result would be.
"Yes," said he, "they're ripe. They won't gripe her. Take her
and pick her some this afternoon."
Rosie turned away without a word, and in the afternoon she
took Mary across the stubbles to where the ripe berries grew.
Mary, when she saw them, dispensed for once with dainty service,
and began to help herself very liberally. Rosie, finding she had
nothing more urgent to attend to, sat down on a bank and sobbed
In the middle of it all she heard a voice asking what was the
matter. She looked up and there was a fat, shrewd, jolly-looking
farmer. "What is it, my girl?" said he. "Are you hungry?"
"No," said she, "I'm fed up."
"What with?" said he.
"A pig!" said she, with a gulp.
"You've got no call to bawl and cry," said he. "There's nothing
like a bit of pork. I'd have the indigestion for that, any day."
"It's not pork," she said. "It's a pig. A live pig."
"Have you lost it?" said he.
"I wish I had," said she. "I'm that miserable I don't know what
"Tell me your troubles," said he. "There's no harm in a bit of
So Rosie told him about Fred, and about Mary, and what hopes
she'd had and what they'd all come to, and how she was the slave
of this insolent, spoiled, jealous pig, and in fact she told him every-
thing except one little matter which she could hardly bring herself
to repeat, even to the most sympathetic of fat farmers.
[ 44 ] Mary
The farmer, pushing his hat over his eyes, scratched his head
very thoughtfully. "Really," said he. "I can't hardly believe it."
"It's true," said Rosie, "every word."
"I mean," said the farmer. "A young man — a young gal — the
young gal sleeping down on a sack of straw — a pretty young gal
like you. Properly married and all. Not to put too fine a point on
it, young missus, aren't the bunks wide enough, or what?"
"He doesn't know," sobbed Rosie. "He just doesn't know no
more'n a baby. And she won't let us ever be alone a minute. So
he'd find out."
The farmer scratched his head more furiously than ever. Look-
ing at her tear-stained face, he found it hard to doubt her. On the
other hand it seemed impossible that a pig should know so much
and a young man should know so little. But at that moment Mary
came trotting through the bushes, with an egoistical look on her
face, which was well besmeared with the juice of the ripe berries.
"Is this your pig?" said the farmer.
"Well," said Rosie, "I'm just taking her for a walk."
The shrewd farmer was quick to notice the look that Rosie got
from the haughty grunter when it heard the expression "your pig."
This, and Rosie's hurried, nervous disclaimer, convinced the
worthy man that the story he had heard was well founded.
"You're taking her for a walk?" said he musingly. "Well! Well!
Well! I'll tell you what. If you'd ha' been here this time tomorrow
you'd have met me taking a walk, with a number of very dear
young friends of mine, all very much like her. You might have
come along. Two young sows, beautiful creatures, though maybe
not so beautiful as that one. Three young boars, in the prime of
their health and handsomeness. Though I say it as shouldn't, him
that's unattached — he's a prince. Oh, what a beautiful young boar
that young boar really is!"
"You don't say?" said Rosie.
"For looks and pedigree both," said the farmer, "he's a prince.
The fact is, it's their birthday, and I'm taking 'em over to the vil-
lage for a little bit of a celebration. I suppose this young lady has
some other engagement tomorrow."
"She has to have her sleep just about this time," said Rosie,
ignoring Mary's angry grunt.
"Pity!" said the farmer. "She'd have just made up the party. Such
fun they'll have! Such refreshments! Sweet apples, cakes biscuits,
a bushel of chocolate creams. Everything most refined, of course,
but plenty. You know what I mean — plenty. And that young boar
— you know what I mean. If she should be walking by "
"I'm afraid not," said Rosie.
"Pity!" said the farmer. "Ah, well. I must be moving along."
With that, he bade them good afternoon, raising his hat very
politely to Mary, who looked after him for a long time, and then
walked sulkily home, gobbling to herself all the way.
The next afternoon Mary seemed eager to stretch out on her
bunk, and, for once, instead of requiring the usual number of little
attentions from Rosie, she closed her eyes in sleep. Rosie took the
opportunity to pick up a pail and go off to buy the evening ration
of fresh milk. When she got back Fred was still at his practice by
the wayside, and Rosie went round to the back of the caravan,
and the door was swinging open, and the bunk was empty.
She called Fred. They sought high and low. They went along the
roads, fearing she might have been knocked over by a motor car.
They went calling through the woods, hoping she had fallen asleep
under a tree. They looked in ponds and ditches, behind haystacks,
under bridges, everywhere. Rosie thought of the farmer's joking
talk, but she hardly liked to say anything about it to Fred.
They called and called all night, scarcely stopping to rest. They
sought all the next day. It grew dark, and Fred gave up hope. They
plodded silently back to the caravan.
He sat on a bunk, with his head in his hand.
"I shall never see her again," he said. "Been pinched, that's
what she's been.
"When I think," he said, "of all the hopes I had for that pig
"When I think," he said, "of all you've done for her! And what
it's meant to you
"I know she had some faults in her nature," he said. "But that
was artistic. Temperament, it was. When you got a talent like
"And now she's gone!" he said. With that he burst into tears.
"Oh, Fred!" cried Rosie. "Don't!"
Suddenly she found she loved him just as much as ever, more
than ever. She sat down beside him and put her arms round his
neck. "Darling Fred, don't cry!" she said again.
"It's been rough on you, I know," said Fred. "I didn't ever mean
it to be."
[ 46 ] Mary
"There! There," said Rosie. She gave him a kiss, and then she
gave him another. It was a long time since they had been as close
as this. There was nothing but the two of them and the caravan;
the tiny lamp, and darkness all round; their kisses, and grief all
round. "Don't let go," said Fred. "It makes it better."
"I'm not letting go," she said.
"Rosie," said Fred. "I feel— Do you know how I feel?"
"I know," she said. "Don't talk."
"Rosie," said Fred, but this was some time later. "Who'd have
"Ah! Who would, indeed?" said Rosie.
"Why didn't you tell me?" said Fred.
"How could I tell you?" said she.
"You know," said he. "We might never have found out —
never! — if she hadn't been pinched."
"Don't talk about her," said Rosie.
"I can't help it," said Fred. "Wicked or not, I can't help it—
I'm glad she's gone. It's worth it. I'll make enough on the acrobat
stuff. I'll make brooms as well. Pots and pans, too."
"Yes," said Rosie. "But look! It's morning. I reckon you're tired,
Fred — running up hill and down dale all day yesterday. You lie
abed now, and I'll go down to the village and get you something
good for breakfast."
"All right," said Fred. "And tomorrow I'll get yours."
So Rosie went down to the village, and bought the milk and the
bread and so forth. As she passed the butcher's shop she saw some
new-made pork sausages of a singularly fresh, plump, and appetiz-
ing appearance. So she bought some, and very good they smelled
while they were cooking.
"That's another thing we couldn't have while she was here,"
said Fred, as he finished his plateful. "Never no pork sausages, on
account of her feelings: I never thought to see the'day I'd be glad
she was pinched. I only hope she's gone to someone who appre-
"I'm sure she has," said Rosie. "Have some more."
"I will," said he. "I don't know if it's the novelty, or the way
you cooked 'em, or what. I never ate a better sausage in my life.
If we'd gone up to London with her, best hotels and all, I doubt if
ever we'd have had as sweet a sausage as these here."
J!5!j2l!JI5!^^ MIDNIGHT BLUE ^r^r^^r^
MR. SPIERS CAME IN EXTREMELY LATE. HE SHUT THE DOOR VERY
quietly, switched on the electric light, and stood for quite a long
time on the door mat.
Mr. Spiers was a prosperous accountant with a long, lean face,
naturally pale; a cold eye, and a close mouth. Just behind his jaw-
bones a tiny movement was perceptible, like the movement of gills
in a fish.
He now took off his bowler hat, looked at it inside and out, and
hung it upon the usual peg. He pulled off his muffler, which was
a dark one, dotted with polka dots of a seemly size, and he scruti-
nized this muffler very carefully and hung it on another peg. His
overcoat, examined even more scrupulously, was next hung up,
and Mr. Spiers went quickly upstairs.
In the bathroom he spent a very long time at the mirror. He
turned his face this way and that, tilted it sideways to expose his
jaw and neck. He noted the set of his collar, saw that his tiepin
was straight, looked at his cuff links, his buttons, and finally pro-
ceeded to undress. Again he examined each garment very closely;
it was as well Mrs. Spiers did not see him at this moment, or she
might have thought he was looking for a long hair, or traces of
powder. However, Mrs. Spiers' had been asleep for a couple of
hours. After her husband had examined, every stitch of his cloth-
ing, he crept to his dressing room for'a.clothesbrush, which he used
even upon his shoes. Finally he looked at his hands and his nails,
and scrubbed them. both very thoroughly.
He then sat down on the edge of the bath, put his elbows on his
knees and his chin on his hands, and gave himself up to a very
profound train of thought. Now and then he marked the checking-
off of some point or other by lifting a finger and bringing it back
again onto his cheek, or even onto -the spot behind his jawbone
where there was that little movement, so like the movement of
the gills of a fish.
Midnight Blue 
At last Mr. Spiers seemed satisfied, and he turned out the light
and repaired to the conjugal bedroom, which was decorated in
cream, rose, and old gold.
In the morning, Mr. Spiers arose at his usual hour and de-
scended, with his usual expression, to the breakfast room.
His wife, who was his opposite in all respects, as some say a
wife should be, was already busy behind the coffee service. She
was as plump, as blonde, as good-humored, and as scatterbrained
as any woman should be at a breakfast table, perhaps even more
so. The two younger children were there; the two older ones were
"So here you are!" said Mrs. Spiers to her husband, in a sprightly
tone. "You were late."
"About one," said he, taking up the newspaper.
"It must have been later than that," said she. "I heard one
"It might have been half past," said he.
"Did Mr. Benskin give you a lift?"
"All right, my dear, I only asked."
"Give me my coffee," said he.
"A dinner's all right," said she. "A man ought to have an eve-
ning with his friends. But you ought to get your rest, Harry. Not
that I had much rest last night. Oh, I had such a terrible dream!
I dreamed I — "
"If there's one thing," said her husband, "that I hate more
than a slop- in my saucer — Do you see this mess?"
"Really, dear," said she, "you asked so brusquely for your
"Father spilled the coffee," piped up little Patrick. "His hand
jerked — like that."
Mr. Spiers turned his'eye upon his younger son, and his younger
son was silent.
"I was saying," said Mr. Spiers, "that if I detest anything more
than a filthy mess in my saucer, it is the sort of fool who blathers
out a dream at the breakfast table."
"Oh, my dream!" said Mrs. Spiers with the utmost good humor.
"All right, my dear, if you don't want to hear it. It was about you,
 Midnight Blue
"Either tell your dream, or don't tell it," said Mr. Spiers.
"You said you didn't want to hear it," replied Mrs. Spiers, not
"There is no more disgusting or offensive sort of idiot," said Mr.
Spiers, "than the woman who, like a tantalizing shopgirl, hatches
up a mystery, and then — "
"There is no mystery," said Mrs. Spiers. "I don't know what
you know about shopgirls. You said you didn't want — "
"Will you," said Mr. Spiers, "kindly put an end to this, and tell
me, very briefly, whatever nonsense it was that you dreamed, and
let us have done with it? Imagine you are dictating a telegram."
"Mr. T. Spiers, Normandene, Radclyffe Avenue, Wrexton Gar-
den Suburb," said his wife. "I dreamed that you were hung."
"Hanged, Mother," said little Daphne.
"Hullo, Mums," said her big sister, entering at that moment.
"Hullo, Dads. Sorry I'm late. Good morning, children. What's the
matter, Daddy? You look as if you'd heard from the Income Tax."
"Because of a murder," continued Mrs. Spiers, "in the middle of
the night. It was so vivid, my dear! I was quite glad when you said
you were back by half past one."
"Half past one, nothing," said the elder daughter.
"Mildred," said her mother, "that's film talk."
"Daddy's an old rip," said Mildred, tapping her egg. "Freddy
and I got back from the dance at half past two, and his hat and
coat wasn't there then."
"Weren't there," said little Daphne.
"If that child corrects her elder sister, or you, in front of my face
once again — " said Mr. Spiers.
"Be quiet, Daphne," said her mother. "Well, that was it, my
dear. I dreamed you committed a murder, and you were hanged."
"Daddy hanged?" cried Mildred in the highest glee. "Oh,
Mummy, who did he murder? Tell us all the grisly details."
"Well, it really was grisly," said her mother. "I woke up feeling
quite depressed. It was poor Mr. Benskin."
"What?" said her husband.
"Yes, you murdered poor Mr. Benskin," said Mrs. Spiers.
"Though why you should murder your own partner, I don't know."
"Because he insisted on looking at the books," said Mildred.
Midnight Blue 
"They always do, and get murdered. I knew it would be one or the
other for Daddy — murdered or hung."
"Hanged" said little Daphne.
"Be quiet!" said her father. "These children will drive me mad."
"Well, my dear," said his wife, "there you were, with Mr. Ben-
skin, late at night, and he was running you home in his car, and
you were chatting about business — you know how people can
dream the most difficult talk, about things they don't know any-
thing about, and it sounds all right, and of course it's all nonsense.
It's the same with jokes. You dream you made the best joke you
ever heard, and when you wake up—"
"Go on," said Mr. Spiers firmly.
"Well, my dear, you were chatting, and you drove right into his
garage, and it was so narrow that the doors of the car would only
open on one side, and so you got out first, and you said to him,
*Wait a minute,' and you tilted up the front seat of that little
Chevrolet of his, and you got in at the back where your coats and
hats were. Did I say you were driving along without your over-
coats on, because it was one of these mild nights we're having?"
"Go on," said Mr. Spiers.
"Well, there were your coats and hats on the back seat, and
Mr. Benskin still sat at the wheel, and there was that dark over-
coat he always wears, and your light cheviot you wore yesterday,
and your silk mufflers, and your hats and everything, and you
picked up one of the mufflers — they both had white polka dots on
them — I think he was wearing one like yours last time he came to
lunch on Sunday. Only his was dark blue. Well, you picked up the
muffler, and you were talking to him, and you tied a knot in it,
and all of a sudden you put it round his neck and strangled him."
"Because he'd asked to look at the books," said Mildred.
"Really it's — it's too much," said Mr. Spiers.
"It was nearly too much for me," said his spouse. "I was so
upset, in my dream. You got a piece of rope, and tied it to the end
of the scarf, and then to the bar across the top of the garage, so it
looked as if he'd hanged himself."
"Good heavens!" said Mr. Spiers.
"It was so vivid, I can't tell you," said his wife. "And then it all
got mixed up, as dreams do, and I kept on seeing you with that
 Midnight Blue
muffler on, and it kept on twisting about your neck. And then you
were being tried, and they brought in — the muffler. Only, seeing
it by daylight, it was Mr. Benskin's, because it was dark blue.
Only by the artificial light it looked black."
Mr. Spiers crumbled his bread. "Very extraordinary," he said.
"It's silly, of course," said his wife. "Only you would have me
"I wonder if it is so silly," said her husband. "As a matter of fact,
I did ride home with Benskin last night. We had a very serious
talk. Not to go into details, it happened I'd hit on something very
odd at the office. Well, I had it out with him. We sat talking a
long time. Maybe it was later than I thought when I got home.
When I left him, do you know, I had the most horrible premoni-
tion. I thought, 'That fellow's going to make away with himself.'
That's what I thought. I very nearly turned back. I felt like a —
well, I felt responsible. It's a serious business. I spoke to him very
"You don't say Mr. Benskin's a fraud?" cried Mrs. Spiers.
"We're not ruined, Harry?"
"Not ruined," said her husband. "But there's been some pretty
"Are you sure it's him?" said Mrs. Spiers. "He — he seems so
"Him or me," said her husband. "And it wasn't me."
"But you don't think he's — he's hanged himself," said Mrs.
"Heaven forbid!" said her husband. "But considering that feel-
ing I had — well, perhaps the dream came just from the feeling."
"It's true Rose Waterhouse dreamed of water when her brother
was away sailing," said Mrs. Spiers, "but he wasn't drowned."
"There are thousands of such cases," said her husband. "They're
generally wrong on all the details."
"I hope so, indeed!" cried Mrs. Spiers.
"For example," said her husband, "it happens we both wore our
coats and mufflers all the time last night. The atmosphere was
"I should say not," said Mrs. Spiers. "Who would have thought
it of Mr. Benskin?"
"His wife, poor woman, would not have thought it," said Mr.
Midnight Blue 
Spiers gravely. "I have resolved to spare her. So, Mildred, chil-
dren, whatever has happened or has not happened, not a word,
not one word, is to be said about this to anyone. Do you hear? To
anyone! You know nothing. A single word might lead to disgrace
for the whole wretched family."
"You are quite right, my dear," said his wife. "I will see to the
"Morning, Mum," cried Fred, bursting into the room. "Morn-
ing, Guv'nor. No time for breakfast. I'll just get the train by the
skin of my teeth, if I'm lucky. Whose muffler's this, by the way?
It's not yours, is it, Dad? This is dark blue. Can I bag it? Why —
what's the matter? What on earth's the matter?"
"Come in, Fred," said Mrs. Spiers. "Come in here and shut the
door. Don't worry about your train."
J!W!f!!^ BACK FOR CHRISTMAS fi^SSgSg^
WE CERTAINLY MUST HAVE YOU
with us for Christmas." It was afternoon and the Carpenters'
living room was filled with friends who had come to say last-minute
farewells to the Doctor and his wife.
"He shall be back," said Mrs. Carpenter. "I promise you."
"It's hardly certain," said Dr. Carpenter. "I'd like nothing bet-
ter, of course."
"After all," said Mr. Hewitt, "you've contracted to lecture only
for three months."
"Anything may happen," said Dr. Carpenter.
"Whatever happens," said Mrs. Carpenter, beaming at them,
"he shall be back in England for Christmas. You may all believe
They all believed her. The Doctor himself almost believed her.
For ten years she had been promising him for dinner parties, gar-
den parties, committees, heaven knows what, and the promises
had always been kept.
The farewells began. There was a fluting of compliments on
dear Hermione's marvellous arrangements. She and her husband
would drive to Southampton that evening. They would embark
the following day. No trains, no bustle, no last-minute worries.
Certainly the Doctor was marvellously looked after. He would be
a great success in America. Especially with Hermione to see to
everything. She would have a wonderful time, too. She would see
the skyscrapers. Nothing like that in Little God wearing. But she
must be very sure to bring him back. "Yes, I will bring him back.
You may rely upon it." He mustn't be persuaded. No extensions.
No wonderful post at some super-American hospital. Our infir-
mary needs him. And he must be back by Christmas. "Yes," Mrs.
Carpenter called to the last departing guest, "I shall see to it. He
shall be back by Christmas."
The final arrangements for closing the house were very well
Back for Christmas 
managed. The maids soon had the tea things washed up; they
came in, said goodbye, and were in time to catch the afternoon
bus to Devizes.
Nothing remained but odds and ends, locking doors, seeing that
everything was tidy. "Go upstairs," said Hermione, "and change
into your brown tweeds. Empty the pockets of that suit before
you put it in your bag. I'll see to everything else. All you have to
do is not to get in the way."
The Doctor went upstairs and took off the suit he was wearing,
but instead of the brown tweeds, he put on an old, dirty bath gown,
which he took from the back of his wardrobe. Then, after making
one or two little arrangements, he leaned over the head of the
stairs and called to his wife, "Hermione! Have you a moment to
"Of course, dear. I'm just finished."
"Just come up here for a moment. There's something rather ex-
traordinary up here."
Hermione immediately came up. "Good heavens, my dear
man!" she said when she saw her husband. "What are you lounging
about in that filthy old thing for? I told you to have it burned long
"Who in the world," said the Doctor, "has dropped a gold chain
down the bathtub drain?"
"Nobody has, of course," said Hermione. "Nobody wears such
"Then what is it doing there?" said the Doctor. "Take this flash-
light. If you lean right over, you can see it shining, deep down."
"Some Woolworth's bangle off one of the maids," said Hermione.
"It can be nothing else." However, she took the flashlight and
leaned over, squinting into the drain. The Doctor, raising a short
length of lead pipe, struck two or three times with great force and
precision, and tilting the body by the knees, tumbled it into the
He then slipped off the bathrobe and, standing completely
naked, unwrapped a towel full of implements and put them into
the washbasin. He spread several sheets of newspaper on the floor
and turned once more to his victim.
She was dead, of course — horribly doubled up, like a somer-
saulter, at one end of the tub. He stood looking at her for a very
 Back for Christmas
long time, thinking of absolutely nothing at all. Then he saw how
much blood there was and his mind began to move again.
First he pushed and pulled until she lay straight in the bath,
then he removed her clothing. In a narrow bathtub this was an
extremely clumsy business, but he managed it at last and then
turned on the taps. The water rushed into the tub, then dwindled,
then died away, and the last of it gurgled down the drain.
"Good God!" he said. "She turned it off at the main."
There was only one thing to do: the Doctor hastily wiped his
hands on a towel, opened the bathroom door with a clean corner
of the towel, threw it back onto the bath stool, and ran downstairs,
barefoot, light as a cat. The cellar door was in a corner of the en-
trance hall, under the stairs. He knew just where the cut-off was.
He had reason to: he had been pottering about down there for
some time past — trying to scrape out a bin for wine, he had told
Hermione. He pushed open the cellar door, went down the steep
steps, and just before the closing door plunged the cellar into pitch
darkness, he put his hand on the tap and turned it on. Then he
felt his way back along the grimy wall till he came to the steps. He
was about to ascend them when the bell rang.
The Doctor was scarcely aware of the ringing as a sound. It was
like a spike of iron pushed slowly up through his stomach. It went
on until it reached his brain. Then something broke. He threw
himself down in the coal dust on the floor and said, "I'm through.
"They've got no right to come. Fools!" he said. Then he heard
himself panting. "None of this," he said to himself. "None of this."
He began to revive. He got to his feet, and when the bell rang
again the sound passed through him almost painlessly. "Let them
go away," he said. Then he heard the front door open. He said,
"I don't care." His shoulder came up, like that of a boxer, to shield
his face. "I give up," he said.
He heard people calling. "Herbert!" "Hermione!" It was the
Wallingfords. "Damn them! They come butting in. People anxious
to get off. All naked! And blood and coal dust! I'm done! I'm
through! I can't do it."
"Where the dickens can they be?"
Back for Christmas 
"The car's there."
"Maybe they've popped round to Mrs. Liddell's."
"We must see them."
"Or to the shops, maybe. Something at the last minute."
"Not Hermione. I say, listen! Isn't that someone having a bath?
Shall I shout? What about whanging on the door?"
"Sh-h-h! Don't. It might not be tactful."
"No harm in a shout."
"Look, dear. Let's come in on our way back. Hermione said they
wouldn't be leaving before seven. They're dining on the way, in
"Think so? All right. Only I want a last drink with old Herbert.
He'd be hurt."
"Let's hurry. We can be back by half past six."
The Doctor heard them walk out and the front door close
quietly behind them. He thought, "Half past six. I can do it."
He crossed the hall, sprang the latch of the front door, went
upstairs, and taking his instruments from the washbasin, finished
what he had to do. He came down again, clad in his bath gown,
carrying parcel after parcel of towelling or newspaper neatly se-
cured with safety pins. These he packed carefully into the narrow,
deep hole he had made in the corner of the cellar, shovelled in the
soil, spread coal dust over all, satisfied himself that everything
was in order, and went upstairs again. He then thoroughly cleansed
the bath, and himself, and the bath again, dressed, and took his
wife's clothing and his bath gown to the incinerator.
One or two more little touches and everything was in order. It
was only quarter past six. The Wallingfords were always late; he
had only to get into the car and drive off. It was a pity he couldn't
wait till after dusk, but he could make a detour to avoid passing
through the main street, and even if he was seen driving alone,
people would only think Hermione had gone on ahead for some
reason and they would forget about it.
Still, he was glad when he had finally got away, entirely unob-
served, on the open road, driving into the gathering dusk. He had
to drive very carefully; he found himself unable to judge distances,
his reactions were abnormally delayed, but that was a detail.
When it was quite dark he allowed himself to stop the car on the
top of the downs, in order to think.
 Back for Christmas
The stars were superb. He could see the lights of one or two
little towns far away on the plain below him. He was exultant.
Everything that was to follow was perfectly simple. Marion was
waiting in Chicago. She already believed him to be a widower. The
lecture people could be put off with a word. He had nothing to do
but establish himself in some thriving out-of-the-way town in
America and he was safe forever. There were Hermione's clothes,
of course, in the suitcases: they could be disposed of through the
porthole. Thank heaven she wrote her letters on the typewriter —
a little thing like handwriting might have prevented everything.
"But there you are," he said. "She was up-to-date, efficient all
along the line. Managed everything. Managed herself to death,
"There's no reason to get excited," he thought. "I'll write a few
letters for her, then fewer and fewer. Write myself — always ex-
pecting to get back, never quite able to. Keep the house one year,
then another, then another; they'll get used to it. Might even
come back alone in a year or two and clear it up properly. Nothing
easier. But not for Christmas!" He started up the engine and was
In New York he felt free at last, really free. He was safe. He
could look back with pleasure — at least after a meal, lighting his
cigarette, he could look back with a sort of pleasure — to the min-
ute he had passed in the cellar listening to the bell, the door, and
the voices. He could look forward to Marion.
As he strolled through the lobby of his hotel, the clerk, smiling,
held up letters for him. It was the first batch from England. Well,
what did that matter? It would be fun dashing off the typewritten
sheets in Hermione's downright style, signing them with her squig-
gle, telling everyone what a success his first lecture had been, how
thrilled he was with America but how certainly she'd bring him
back for Christmas. Doubts could creep in later.
He glanced over the letters. Most were for Hermione. From the
Sinclairs, the Wallingfords, the vicar, and a business letter from
Holt & Sons, Builders and Decorators.
He stood in the lounge, people brushing by him. He opened the
letters with his thumb, reading here and there, smiling. They all
seemed very confident he would be back for Christmas. They re-
lied on Hermione. "That's where they make their big mistake,"
Back for Christmas [ 61 ]
said the Doctor, who had taken to American phrases. The build-
ers' letter he kept to the last. Some bill, probably. It was:
We are in receipt of your kind acceptance of estimate as below,
and also of key.
We beg to repeat you may have every confidence in same being
ready in ample time for Christmas present as stated. We are set-
ting men to work this week.
We are, Madam,
Paul Holt & Sons
To excavating, building up, suitably lining one sunken wine
bin in cellar as indicated, using best materials, making good, etc.
}?!$£$^ E VENING PRIMR OSE ^^^^
In a pad oj Highlife Bond,
bought by Miss Sadie Brodribb
TODAY I MADE MY DECISION. I WOULD TURN MY BACK FOR GOOD AND
all upon the bourgeois world that hates a poet. I would leave, get
out, break away
And I have done it. I am free! Free as the mote that dances in
the sunbeam! Free as a house-fly crossing first-class in the Queen
Mary! Free as my verse! Free as the food I shall eat, the paper I
write upon, the lamb's- wool-lined softly slithering slippers I shall
This morning I had not so much as a car-fare. Now I am here, on
velvet. You are itching to learn of this haven: you would like to
organize trips here, spoil it, send your relations-in-law, perhaps
even come yourself. After all, this journal will hardly fall into your
hands till I am dead. I'll tell you.
I am at Bracey's Giant Emporium, as happy as a mouse in the
middle of an immense cheese, and the world shall know me no
Merrily, merrily shall I live now, secure behind a towering pile
of carpets, in a corner-nook which I propose to line with eider-
downs, angora vestments, and the Cleopatrsean tops in pillows. I
shall be cosy.
I nipped into this sanctuary late this afternoon, and soon heard
the dying footfalls of closing time. From now on, my only effort
will be to dodge the night-watchman. Poets can dodge.
I have already made my first mouse-like exploration. I tiptoed
as far as the stationery department, and, timid, darted back with
Evening Primrose 
only these writing materials, the poet's first need. Now I shall lay
them aside, and seek other necessities: food, wine, the soft furni-
ture of my couch, and a natty smoking-jacket. This place stimu-
lates me. I shall write here.
Damn, next day
I suppose no one in the world was ever more astonished and
overwhelmed than I have been tonight. It is unbelievable. Yet I
believe it. How interesting life is when things get like that!
I crept out, as I said I would, and found the great shop in min-
gled light and gloom. The central well was half illuminated; the
circling galleries towered in a pansy Piranesi of toppling light and
shade. The spidery stairways and flying bridges had passed from
purpose into fantasy. Silks and velvets glimmered like ghosts, a
hundred pantie-clad models offered simpers and embraces to the
desert air. Rings, clips, and bracelets glittered frostily in a desolate
absence of Honey and Daddy.
Creeping along the transverse aisles, which were in deeper dark-
ness, I felt like a wandering thought in the dreaming brain of a
chorus girl down on her luck. Only, of course, their brains are not
so big as Bracey's Giant Emporium. And there was no man there.
None, that is, except the night-watchman. I had forgotten him.
A regular thudding, which might almost have been that of my own
heart, suddenly burst upon me loudly, from outside, only a few
feet away. Quick as a flash I seized a costly wrap, flung it about
my shoulders, and stood stock-still.
I was successful. He passed me, jingling his little machine on its
chain, humming his little tune, his eyes scaled with refractions of
the blaring day. "Go, worldling!" I whispered, and permitted my
self a soundless laugh.
It froze on my lips. My heart faltered. A new fear seized me.
I was afraid to move. I was afraid to look round. I felt I was
being watched, by something that could see right through me. This
was a very different feeling from the ordinary emergency caused
by the very ordinary night-watchman. My conscious impulse was
the obvious one, to glance behind me. But my eyes knew better. I
remained absolutely petrified, staring straight ahead.
My eyes were trying to tell me something that my brain refused
 Evening Primrose
to believe. They made their point. I was looking straight into an-
other pair of eyes, human eyes, but large, flat, luminous. I have
seen such eyes among the nocturnal creatures, which creep out
under the artificial blue moonlight in the zoo.
The owner was only a dozen feet away from me. The watchman
had passed between us, nearer him than me. Yet he had not been
seen. I must have been looking straight at him for several minutes
at a stretch. I had not seen him either.
He was half reclining against a high dais, a platform for the ex-
hibition of shawls and mantillas. One of these brushed his shoul-
der: its folds concealed perhaps his ear, his shoulder, and a little of
his right side. He was clad in dim but large-patterned Shetland
tweeds of the latest cut, suede shoes, a shirt of a rather broad motif
in olive, pink, and grey. He was as pale as a creature found under
a stone. His long thin arms ended in hands that hung floatingly,
more like trailing, transparent fins, or wisps of chiffon, than ordi-
He spoke. His voice was not a voice, a mere whistling under the
tongue. "Not bad, for a beginner!"
I grasped that he was complimenting me, rather satirically, on
my concealment under the wrap. I stuttered. I said, "I'm sorry. I
didn't know anyone else lived here." I noticed, even as I spoke,
that I was imitating his own whistling sibilant utterance.
"Oh, yes," he said. "We live here. It's delightful."
"Yes, all of us. Look."
We were near the edge of the first gallery. He swept his long
hand round, indicating the whole well of the shop. I looked. I saw
nothing. I could hear nothing, except the watchman's thudding
step receding infinitely far along some basement aisle.
"Don't you see?"
You know the sensation one has, peering into the half-light of a
vivarium? One sees bark, pebbles, a few leaves, nothing more. And
then, suddenly, a stone breathes — it is a toad; there is a chameleon,
another, a coiled. adder, a mantis among the leaves. The whole case
seems crepitant with life. Perhaps the whole world is. One glances
at one's sleeve, one's feet.
So it was with the shop. I looked, and it was empty. I looked,
Evening Primrose 
and there was an old lady, clambering out from behind the mon-
strous clock. There were three girls, elderly ingenues, incredibly
emaciated, simpering at the entrance of the perfumery. Their hair
was a fine floss, pale as gossamer. Equally brittle and colorless
was a man with the appearance of a colonel of southern extraction,
who stood regarding me while he caressed moustachios that would
have done credit to a crystal shrimp. A chintzy woman, possibly
of literary tastes, swam forward from the curtains and drapes.
They came thick about me, fluttering, whistling, like a waving
of gauze in the wind. Their eyes were wide and flatly bright. I saw
there was no color to the iris.
"How raw he looks!"
"A detective! Send for the Dark Men!"
"I'm not a detective. I am a poet. I have renounced the world."
"He is a poet. He has come over to us. Mr. Roscoe found him."
"He admires us."
"He must meet Mrs. Vanderpant."
I was taken to meet Mrs. Vanderpant: she proved to be the
Grand Old Lady of the store, almost entirely transparent.
"So you are a poet, Mr. Snell? You will find inspiration here. I
am quite the oldest inhabitant. Three mergers and a complete re-
building, but they didn't get rid of me!"
"Tell how you went out by daylight, dear Mrs. Vanderpant,
and nearly got bought for Whistler's Mother."
"That was in pre-war days. I was more robust then. But at the
cash desk they suddenly remembered there was no frame. And
when they came back to look at me "
" — She was gone."
Their laughter was like the stridulation of the ghosts of grass-
"Where is Ella? Where is my broth?"
"She is bringing it, Mrs. Vanderpant. It will come."
"Terrible little creature! She is our foundling, Mr. Snell. She is
not quite our sort."
"Is that so, Mrs. Vanderpant? Dear, dear!"
"I lived alone here, Mr. Snell, ever since the terrible times in the
eighties. I was a young girl then, a beauty, they said, and poor
Papa lost his money. Bracey's meant a lot to a young girl, in the
 Evening Primrose
New York of those days, Mr. Snell. It seemed to me terrible that
I should not be able to come here in the ordinary way. So I came
here for good. I was quite alarmed when others began to come
in, after the crash of 1907. But it was the dear Judge, the Colonel,
Mrs. Bilbee "
I bowed. I was being introduced.
"Mrs. Bilbee writes plays. And of a very old Philadelphia family.
You will find us quite nice here, Mr. Snell."
"I feel it a great privilege, Mrs. Vanderpant."
"And of course, all our dear young people came in '29. Their
poor papas jumped from skyscrapers."
I did a great deal of bowing and whistling. The introductions
took a long time. Who would have thought so many people lived in
"And here at last is Ella with my broth."
It was then I noticed that the young people were not so young
after all, in spite of their smiles, their little ways, their ingenue
dress. Ella was in her teens. Clad only in something from the shop-
soiled counter, she nevertheless had the appearance of a living
flower in a French cemetery, or a mermaid among polyps.
"Come, you stupid thing!"
"Mrs. Vanderpant is waiting."
Her pallor was not like theirs, not like the pallor of something
that glistens or scuttles when you turn over a stone. Hers was that
of a pearl.
Ella! Pearl of this remotest, most fantastic cave! Little mermaid,
brushed over, pressed down by objects of a deadlier white — ten-
tacles — ! I can write no more.
Well, I am rapidly becoming used to my new and half-lit world,
to my strange company. I am learning the intricate laws of silence
and camouflage which dominate the apparently casual strollings
and gatherings of the midnight clan. How they detest the night-
watchman, whose existence imposes these laws on their idle festi-
"Odious, vulgar creature! He reeks of the coarse sun!"
Actually, he is quite a personable young man, very young for
a night-watchman. But they would like to tear him to pieces.
Evening Primrose 
They are very pleasant to me, though. They are pleased that a
poet should have come among them. Yet I cannot like them en-
tirely. My blood is a little chilled by the uncanny ease with which
even the old ladies can clamber spider-like from balcony to bal-
cony. Or is it because they are unkind to Ella?
Yesterday we had a bridge party. Tonight Mrs. Bilbee's little
play, Love in Shadowland, is going to be presented. Would you
believe it? — another colony, from Wanamaker's, is coming over
en masse to attend. Apparently people live in all stores. This visit
is considered a great honor: there is an intense snobbery in these
creatures. They speak with horror of a social outcast who left a
high-class Madison Avenue establishment, and now leads a wal-
lowing, beachcomberish life in a delicatessen. And they relate with
tragic emotion the story of the man in Altman's, who conceived
such a passion for a model plaid dressing jacket that he emerged
and wrested it from the hands of a purchaser. It seems that all the
Altman colony, dreading an investigation, were forced to remove
beyond the social pale, into a five-and-dime. Well, I must get
ready to attend the play.
I have found an opportunity to speak to Ella. I dared not
before: here one has a sense always of pale eyes secretly watch-
ing. But last night, at the play, I developed a fit of hiccups.
I was somewhat sternly told to go and secrete myself in the
basement, among the garbage cans, where the watchman never
There, in the rat-haunted darkness, I heard a stifled sob.
"What's that? Is it you? Is it Ella? What ails you, child? Why do
"They wouldn't even let me see the play."
"Is that all? Let me console you."
"I am so unhappy."
She told me her tragic little story. What do you think? When
she was a child, a little tiny child of only six, she strayed away
and fell asleep behind a counter, while her mother tried on a new
hat. When she woke, the store was in darkness.
"And I cried, and they all came round, and took hold of me.
'She will tell, if we let her go/ they said. Some said, 'Call in the
 Evening Primrose
Dark Men.' 'Let her stay here,' said Mrs. Vanderpant. 'She will
make me a nice little maid.' "
"Who are these Dark Men, Ella? They spoke of them when I
"Don't you know? Oh, it's horrible! It's horrible!"
"Tell me, Ella. Let us share it."
She trembled. "You know the morticians, 'Journey's End/ who
go to houses when people die?"
"Well, in that shop, just like here, and at Gimbel's, and at
Bloomingdale's, there are people living, people like these."
"How disgusting! But what can they live upon, Ella, in a funeral
"Don't ask me! Dead people are sent there, to be embalmed.
Oh, they are terrible creatures! Even the people here are terrified
of them. But if anyone dies, or if some poor burglar breaks in, and
sees these people, and might tell "
"Yes? Go on."
"Then they send for the others, the Dark Men."
"Yes, and they put the body in the surgical department — or
the burglar, all tied up, if it's a burglar — and they send for these
others, and then they all hide, and in they come, these others —
Oh! they're like pieces of blackness. I saw them once. It was ter-
"They go in, to where the dead person is, or the poor burglar.
And they have wax there — and all sorts of things. And when
they're gone there's just one of these wax models left, on the table.
And then our people put a frock on it, or a bathing suit, and they
mix it up with all the others, and nobody ever knows."
"But aren't they heavier than the others, these wax models?
You would think they'd be heavier."
"No. They're not heavier. I think there's a lot of them — gone."
"Oh dear! So they were going to do that to you, when you were
a little child?"
"Yes, only Mrs. Vanderpant said I was to be her maid."
"I don't like these people, Ella."
"Nor do 1. 1 wish I could see a bird."
Evening Primrose [71
"Why don't you go into the pet-shop?"
"It wouldn't be the same. I want to see it on a twig, with leaves."
"Ella, let us meet often. Let us creep away down here and meet.
I will tell you about birds, and twigs and leaves."
"Ella, I love you."
I said it to her just like that. We have met many times. I have
dreamt of her by day. I have not even kept up my journal. Verse
has been out of the question.
"Ella, I love you. Let us move into the trousseau department.
Don't look so dismayed, darling. If you like, we will go right away
from here. We will live in the refreshment rooms in Central Park.
There are thousands of birds there."
"Don't, Charles, don't."
"But I love you with all my heart."
"But I find I must. I can't help it. Ella, you don't love another?"
She wept a little. "Oh, Charles, I do."
"Love another, Ella? One of these? I thought you dreaded them
all. It must be Roscoe. He is the only one that's any way human.
We talk of art, life, and such things. And he has stolen your heart!"
"No, Charles, no. He's just like the rest, really. I hate them all.
They make me shudder."
"Who is it, then?"
"No. He smells of the sun."
"Oh, Ella, you have broken my heart."
"Be my friend, though."
"I will. I'll be your brother. How did you fall in love with him?"
"Oh, Charles, it was so wonderful. I was thinking of birds, and
I was careless. Don't tell on me, Charles, they'll punish me."
"No. No. Go on."
"I was careless, and there he was, coming round the corner. And
there was no place for me, I had this blue frock on. There were
only some wax models in their underthings."
 Evening Primrose
"Please go on."
"I couldn't help it, Charles. I slipped off my dress, and stood
"And he stopped just by me, Charles. And he looked at me.
And he touched my cheek."
"Did he notice nothing?"
"No. It was cold. But Charles, he said — he said — 'Say, honey,
I wish they made 'em like you on Eighth Avenue.' Charles, wasn't
that a lovely thing to say?"
"Personally, I should have said Park Avenue."
"Oh, Charles, don't get like these people here. Sometimes I
think you're getting like them. It doesn't matter what street,
Charles; it was a lovely thing to say."
"Yes, but my heart's broken. And what can you do about him?
Ella, he belongs to another world."
"Yes, Charles, Eighth Avenue. I want to go there. Charles, are
you truly my friend?"
"I'm your brother, only my heart's broken."
"I'll tell you. I will. I'm going to stand there again. So he'll see
"Perhaps he'll speak to me again."
"My dearest Ella, you are torturing yourself. You are making
"No, Charles. Because I shall answer him. He will take me
"Ella, I can't bear it."
"Ssh! There is someone coming. I shall see birds, flowers grow-
ing. They're coming. You must go."
The last three days have been torture. This evening I broke.
Roscoe (he was my first acquaintance) came in. There has always
been a sort of hesitant sympathy between us.
He said, "You're looking seedy, old fellow. Why don't you go
over to Wanamaker's for some skiing?"
His kindness compelled a frank response. "It's deeper than that.
Evening Primrose 
Roscoe. I'm done for. I can't eat, I can't sleep. I can't write, man,
I can't ever write."
"What is it? Day starvation?"
"Roscoe — it's love."
"Not one of the staff, Charles, or the customers? That's abso-
"No, it's not that, Roscoe. But just as hopeless."
"My dear old fellow, I can't bear to see you like this. Let me
help you. Let me share your trouble."
Then it all came out. It burst out. I trusted him. I think I
trusted him. I really think I had no intention of betraying Ella,
of spoiling her escape, of keeping her here till her heart turned
towards me. If I had, it was subconscious. I swear it.
But I told him all. All. He was sympathetic, but I detected a
sly reserve in his sympathy. "You will respect my confidence,
Roscoe? This is to be a secret between us."
"As secret as the grave, old chap."
And he must have gone straight to Mrs. Vanderpant. This eve-
ning the atmosphere has changed. People flicker to and fro, smiling
nervously, horribly, with a sort of frightened sadistic exaltation.
When I speak to them they answer evasively, fidget, and disap-
pear. An informal dance has been called off. I cannot find Ella. I
will creep out. I will look for her again.
Heaven! It has happened. I went in desperation to the manager's
office, whose glass front overlooks the whole shop. I watched till
midnight. Then I saw a little group of them, like ants bearing a
victim. They were carrying Ella. They took her to the surgical
department. They took other things.
And, coming back here, I was passed by a flittering, whispering
horde of them, glancing over their shoulders in a thrilled ecstasy
of panic, making for their hiding places. I, too, hid myself. How
can I describe the dark inhuman creatures that passed me, silent
as shadows? They went there — where Ella is.
What can I do? There is only one thing. I will find the watch-
man. I will tell him. He and I will save her. And if we are over-
powered— Well, I will leave this on a counter. Tomorrow, if we
live, I can recover it.
 Evening Primrose
If not, look in the windows. Look for three new figures: two
men, one rather sensitive-looking, and a girl. She has blue eyes,
like periwinkle flowers, and her upper lip is lifted a little.
Look for us.
Smoke them out! Obliterate them! Avenge us!
j!!fffl!tfjl!jjfUff^!jff^ the FROG PRINCE ^^^^^
TWO YOUNG MEN WERE DISCUSSING LITE. SAID THE RICHER OF THEM
to the poorer, "Paul, you had better marry my sister."
"That is a very strange thing to say," said Paul, "considering
I have told you all about my debts."
"I am not worldly," replied Henry Vanhomry. "I should prefer
my sister to marry a clean, decent, and kindly fellow like yourself,
than some rich but blase roue, cynic, near-man, sub-man, or half-
"I am certainly not blase," said Paul. "On the other hand, I had
not the pleasure of meeting your family when I was in Boston."
"I am very fond of my sister," said Henry, "in a way."
"How delightful! No doubt she was a mother to you when you
were small. A little mother!"
"No. No. She is ten years younger than I am; only twenty-eight,
"Aha! She would have come into her fortune just in the rockiest
year of our financial history."
"Fortunately it is well invested, and yields her an income of
forty thousand dollars."
"An objection occurs to me. We are men of the world, Henry.
If we were of the other sex, we might also make mistakes. Fond
as I am of children "
"That would be a matter entirely for you to decide."
"Henry, your sister sounds charming. Tell me more about her.
She is not by any chance a teeny little woman?" And Paul held his
hand some thirty inches from the floor.
"Quite the reverse."
"Quite the reverse, eh?"
"My dear Paul, I do not mean that she is six feet four."
"Six feet three, perhaps?"
"And a half. But perhaps I should tell you she is rather plump.
Disproportionately so, in fact."
The Frog Prince 
"Upon my word! I hope she is good-tempered."
"Angelically. You should hear her petting her dolls/'
"Pardon me, Henry, but is she at all — backward?"
"A matter of opinion. She reads and writes admirably."
"How delightful. We could correspond, if I happened to be
"I will be frank with you, Paul: her letters to famous boxers are
quite amazingly expressive, though by no means perfect in or-
"Henry, she is capable of hero worship; she has an affectionate
"Almost embarrassingly so. It appears from these letters of hers,
which we censor, that she would make a devoted wife. However,
my family are old-fashioned, and the boxers are cowardly brutes.
I should like to see her married."
"But, as yet, if I understand you, she is pure as the driven snow?
"Hers has been a cloistered girlhood. Yet there is something
romantic in her nature which causes me alarm. Supposing one of
the boxers responded. He might not treat her politely."
"I, on the other hand, would write her the most devoted letters,
and bow, with old-world courtesy, whenever we met. Hm! All I
fear, to be perfectly candid, is that a certain confounded coldness,
a defect of my nature, might be a cause of pain, dissatisfaction, or
"Well, my dear Paul, that is hardly a matter for me to speculate
upon. I can only remind you that faint heart never won fair
"Very well, Henry. I will at least come with you and see your
"I am afraid I cannot accompany you. You forget that I am
off to Europe next week. However, I'll give you a letter of intro-
duction to the family."
All this being arranged, our good Paul took leave of his friend,
and after walking about for a little with an air of distraction, he
paid a visit to the apartment of another friend of his.
"My dear Olga," he said, after a time, "I'm afraid I have some
very ridiculous news for you. I am going to be poor no longer."
"Tell me only one thing, Paul. Is she beautiful?"
 The Frog Prince
"Not very, it seems. I have not seen her, but she is over six feet
three, and disproportionately fat."
"My poor Paul! She is simply bound to have hair on her face.
What will become of you?"
"Besides all this, she is not very bright, I hear."
"And, now I come to think of it, what will become of me?"
"She has forty thousand a year, my dear Olga."
"Paul, we women are given to incredible follies when we are
jealous. I might refuse everything. I find myself capable of jeal-
"But, on the other hand, are you, or am I, capable of living any
longer without a little of that forty thousand a year?"
"Or some other."
"But what other, my dear Olga? Where is another forty thou-
"It is true, Paul. Am I right in believing that your gigantic
bride-to-be is mentally nine years, or is it twelve years old?"
"Seven, I should think, by all that Henry told me of her. She
has an exuberant innocence. She write to boxers, but caresses
"Really? That is very interesting. Dolls are so featureless. Now,
is there any great hurry, Paul? I have still that bracelet you found
at Palm Beach. It would provide us with a few last weeks together."
"I was going to suggest, as a matter of fact, that it should be
my present to the bride, for I like to do things in good style. How-
ever, something may turn up. I admit that I love you."
"You shall promise me not to go near Boston for at least a
month. I shall be busy, I have decided to wear my hair short, but
at least we shall meet at week-ends. In between, you may say
farewell to all your bachelor life."
"Yes, that is true, Olga. I shall have to do that, I suppose."
Everything being agreed, this young couple spent the next
month or so as Olga had suggested, and at the end of it, she saw
him off to Boston, with a restraint that he found almost too ad-
He arrived at Boston, presented his letter of introduction, and
was very well received by old Mrs. Vanhomry.
They got on admirably. "You are still a bachelor?" she asked.
The Frog Prince 
"I cannot," he replied, "bring myself to regard the modern girl
as a true mate. Those clipped locks, that flat masculine figure,
that hardness, that ultra-sophistication! Where are the curves, the
innocence, the warm-heartedness of yesteryear? But why am I
telling you all this — ?"
"You would have liked our dear Ethel. Such a big, healthy,
affectionate, old-fashioned girl! You must meet her, and her fiance.
Perhaps you will come to the wedding?"
"Nothing could be more delightful. Unfortunately, I have to
return to New York almost immediately."
On his return, Paul called at once on Olga, but found that her
flat was locked up. She had left no address; you may depend he
sought her everywhere.
He saw in the papers an account of the wedding of Miss Van-
homry to a Mr. Colefax: it appeared that the happy pair were
on their way to the Ritz-Carlton.
"I really must go and sit in the lobby," said he, "and console
myself with a peep at the disadvantages attached to that forty
thousand a year."
Very well, he sat in the lobby. Before very long, he saw the
enormous form of what was evidently the happy bride crossing
from the elevator.
"Upon my word!" he thought. "There is a great deal to be said
for the simple life after all. One at least preserves one's indi-
He peered about for the husband. At last he saw a sensitive face
in the neighborhood of the bride's hips. "That must be the hus-
band," he said. "Very charming! Very charming indeed. But surely
I have seen him before."
In order to make sure, he edged closer, and was amazed to find
that this husband was none other than his own Olga, in male attire.
He at once applied for a private interview. "My dear Olga, this
is a very pretty trick you have played on me. And what can your
bride — soi-disant — think of it all?"
"You must regard the matter rationally, my dear Paul."
"I am so afraid there may be a scandal. You have no idea what
spiteful tongues might make of it."
"You underestimate the innocence of my wife, whose dolls, as
 The Frog Prince
I suspected, were very ordinary dolls. And you must admit, Paul,
that if either of us is to be in this positon, I at least offer less
grounds for jealousy. You had better be my secretary."
Paul submitted with a good grace, and for a long time enjoyed
his occupation very tolerably. Fortunately, Henry Vanhomry re-
mained in Europe.
On one occasion there was a dinner party at the Colefax home,
and a few of the male guests, with Paul the friendly secretary, and
dapper little Mr. Colefax, remained smoking together long after
the gigantic bride had retired to bed. The conversation turned on
women, a subject which the so-called Mr. Colefax enjoyed more
than his secretary. They talked of attractions.
"My wife," said this charming impostor, "is disarmingly simple:
why try to disguise it? Nevertheless, she has an amazing per-
sonality buried, as it were, beneath her naivete. I am convinced
it is there, I sense it, and yet I could hardly find an example to
describe. How do you account for that?"
"It is very simple, my dear Colefax," said a very eminent doctor.
"Your wife, if I may say so, owes her adorable simplicity, as she
does her admirably robust physique, to a little glandular malad-
justment, which (always supposing you should desire what profes-
sionally we should regard as an improvement) could easily be put
right. Who knows what she is like underneath?"
"It would certainly be interesting to find out," said her false
"She might be slim, vivacious, a positive butterfly," continued
"It would be like carving out ambergris from a whale," observed
a well-known adventurer who was present.
"Or opening a neolithic barrow," added an eminent archaeolo-
"Or undressing an Eskimo girl at Christmas," put in a notorious
"You might find more than you bargain for," observed Paul,
overcome by an inexplicable foreboding.
He spoke too late. Everyone was desperately keen on the experi-
"You must bring your dear wife to a little home that I have in
The Frog Prince [ 81 ]
Paris," said the doctor, "where I have every facility for the treat-
"We shall come at once. You, Paul, had better remain behind,
to deal with everything we shall have to leave unsettled."
Paul, therefore, was left. Ethel and her spouse went on the next
boat to Paris, accompanied by the doctor, and, as a matter of fact,
by the adventurer, the archaeologist, and the Don Juan as well.
My Dear Paul,
You will be amazed at the result of our experiment, and possibly
a little disconcerted, though you were always a connoisseur of
poetic justice. Under the treatment Ethel has lost no less than a
hundred pounds. The removal of this prodigious quantity of blub-
ber has left her exposed as a lean, agile, witty, and very handsome
man. "How absurd that I should have been called Ethel so long!"
he observed to me when first he was apprised of this transforma-
tion. In order to put him at his ease, I replied at once, "No more
absurd than that I should have been called your husband." After
all, the cat was, so to speak, out of the bag, and there was nothing
else to do.
He took it extremely well, saying with a smile, "We must make
the punishment fit the crime." On my part, I was not long in prom-
ising never to deceive him again.
We are remaining on this side to avoid gossip, for the situation
has a ludicrous side which we might find painful. But not nearly
so ludicrous or painful, my dear Paul, as it might have proved, in
all the circumstances, had you had your original wish.
^!r^^ ROPE ENOUGH ^^S^^j^
HENRY FRASER, WELL ASSURED THAT ALMOST EVERYTHING IS DONE BY
mirrors, was given a job in India. No sooner had he set foot on
shore than he burst into a horse-laugh. Those who were meeting
him asked in some alarm the cause of this merriment. He replied
he was laughing at the mere idea of the Indian Rope Trick.
He emitted similar startling sounds, and gave the same expla-
nation, at a tiffin where he was officially made welcome; likewise
on the Maidan, over chota peg, in rickshaws, in bazaars, in the
Club, and on the polo ground. Soon he was known from Bombay
to Calcutta as the man who laughed at the Indian Rope Trick, and
he gloried in the well-deserved publicity.
There came a day, however, when he was sitting in his bungalow,
bored to death. His boy entered, and, with suitable salaams, an-
nounced that a mountebank was outside, who craved the honor
of entertaining the sahib with a performance of the Indian Rope
Trick. Laughing heartily, Henry consented, and moved out to his
chair upon the veranda.
Below, in the dusty compound, stood a native who was emaci-
ated to a degree, and who had with him a spry youngster, a huge
mat basket, and a monstrous great sword. Out of the basket he
dragged some thirty feet of stout rope, made a pass or two, and
slung it up into the air. It stayed there. Henry chuckled.
The boy then, with a caper, sprang at the rope, clutched it, and
went up hand over hand, like a monkey. When he reached the top
he vanished into thin air. Henry guffawed.
Soon the man, looking upwards with an anxious expression,
began to hoot and holler after the boy. He called him down, he
ordered him down, he begged him down, he began to swear and
curse horribly. The boy, it seemed, took no notice at all. Henry
Now the black, clapping his abominable great scimitar between
Rope Enough 
his teeth, took hold of the rope himself, and went up it like a sailor.
He, also, disappeared at the top. Henry's mirth increased.
Pretty soon some yelps and squeals were heard coming out of
the empty air, and then a blood-curdling scream. Down came a
leg, thump on to the ground, then an arm, a thigh, a head and
other joints, and finally (no ladies being present) , a bare backside,
which struck the earth like a bomb. Henry went into fits.
Then the black came sliding down, holding on with one hand,
fairly gibbering with excitement. He presented to Henry, with a
salaam, his reeking blade for inspection. Henry rocked in his chair.
The black, seemingly overwhelmed with remorse, gathered up
the fragments of his little stooge, lavishing a hundred lamentations
and endearments upon each grisly member, and he stowed them
all in the giant basket.
At that moment Henry, feeling the time had come for a show-
down, and willing to bet a thousand to one they'd planted the
whole compound full of mirrors before calling him out there,
pulled out his revolver, and blazed away all six chambers in differ-
ent directions, in the expectation of splintering at least one of
those deceiving glasses.
Nothing of that sort happened, but the black, doing a quick
pirouette in alarm, looked down in the dust at his feet, and held
up a villainous little s nake , no thicker than a lead pencil, which
had been killed by one of Henry's stray bullets. He gave a gasp of
relief, touched his turban very civilly, turned round again, and
made a pass or two over the basket. At once, with a wiggle and a
frisk, the boy sprang out, whole, alive, smiling, full of health and
The black hastily hauled down the rope, and came cringing up
to Henry, overflowing with gratitude for having been saved from
that villainous little snake, which was nothing more nor less than
a krait — one nip and a man goes round and round like a Catherine
wheel for eleven seconds; then he is as dead as mutton.
"But for the Heavenborn," said the black, "I should have been
a goner, and my wicked little boy here, who is my pride and de-
light, must have lain dismembered in the basket till the sahib's
servants condescended to throw him to the crocodiles. Our worth-
less lives, our scanty goods, are all at the sahib's disposal."
 Rope Enough
"That's all right," said Henry. "All I ask is, show me how the
trick is worked, or the laugh will be on me from now on."
"Would not the sahib/' said the black diffidently, "prefer the
secret of a superb hair-restorer?"
"No. No," said Henry. "Nothing but the trick."
"I have," said the black, "the secret of a very peculiar tonic,
which the sahib (not now, of course, but in later life) might
"The trick," said Henry, "and without further delay."
"Very well," said the black. "Nothing in the world could be
more simple. You make a pass, like that "
"Wait a minute," said Henry. "Like that?"
"Exactly," said the black. "You then throw up the rope — so.
You see? It sticks."
"So it does," said Henry.
"Any boy can climb," said the black. "Up boy! Show the sahib"
The boy, smiling, climbed up and disappeared.
"Now," said the black, "if the sahib will excuse me, I shall be
back immediately." And with that he climbed up himself, threw
down the boy in sections, and speedily rejoined Henry on the
"All that," said he, scooping up legs and arms as he spoke, "all
that can be done by anyone. There is a little knack, however, to
the pass I make at this juncture. If the sahib will deign to observe
closely — like that."
"Like that?" said Henry.
"You have it to perfection," said the black.
"Very interesting," said Henry. "Tell me, what's up there at
the top of the rope?"
"Ah, sahib," said the black with a smile, "that is something truly
With that he salaamed and departed, taking with him his rope,
his giant basket, his tremendous great scimitar, and his wicked
little boy. Henry was left feeling rather morose: he was known
from the Deccan to the Khyber Pass as the man who laughed at
the Indian Rope Trick, and now he could laugh no more.
He decided to keep very quiet about it, but this unfortunately
I was not enough. At tiffin, at chota peg, at the Club, on the Maidan,
Rope Enough 
in the bazaar, and at polo, he was expected to laugh like a horse,
and in India one has to do what is expected of one. Henry became
extremely unpopular, cabals were formed against him, and soon
he was hoofed out of the Service.
This was the more distressing as in the meantime he had married
a wife, strong-featured, upstanding, well groomed, straight-eyed,
a little peremptory in manner, and as jealous as a demon, but in
all respects a mem-sahib of the highest type, who knew very well
what was due to her. She told Henry he had better go to America
and make a fortune. He agreed, they packed up, and off they went
"I hope," said Henry, as they stood looking at the skyline of
New York, "I hope I shall make thai fortune."
"Of course," said she. "You must insist upon it."
"Very well, my dear," said he.
On landing, however, he discovered that all the fortunes had
already been made, a discovery which very generally awaits those
who visit America on this errand, and after some weeks of drifting
about from place to place, he was prepared to cut his demand down
to a mere job, then to a lesser job, and finally to the price of a
meal and a becTfor the night.
They reached this extremity in a certain small town in the
Middle West. "There is nothing for it, my dear," said Henry.
"We shall have to do the Ind ian Rope Trick. "
His wife cried out very bitterly at the idea of a mem-sahib per-
forming this native feat in a Middle Western town, before a
Middle Western audience. She reproached him with the loss of
his job, the poor quality of his manhood, with the time he let her
little dog get run over on the bund, and with a glance he had cast
at a Parsee maiden at Bombay. Nevertheless, reason and hunger
prevailed: they pawned her last trinket, and invested in a rope,
a roomy grip, and a monstrous old rusty scimitar they discovered
in a junk-shop.
When she saw this last, Henry's wife flatly refused to go on,
unless she was given the star part and Henry took that of the
stooge. "But," said Henry, drawing an apprehensive thumb down
the notched and jagged edge of the grim and rusty bilbo. "But,"
said he, "you don't know how to make the passes."
 Rope Enough
"You shall teach me," she said, "and if anything goes wrong
you will have only yourself to blame."
So Henry showed her. You may be sure he was very thorough
in his instructions. In the end she mastered them perfectly, and
there was nothing left to do but to stain themselves with coffee.
Henry improvised a turban and loin-cloth: she wore a sari and a
pair of ash-trays borrowed from the hotel. They sought out a con-
venient waste lot, a large crowd collected, and the show began.
Up went the rope. Sure enough, it stuck. The crowd, with a
multiple snigger, whispered that everything was done by mirrors.
Henry, not without a good deal of puffing, went up hand over
hand. When he got to the top, he forgot the crowd, the act, his
wife, and even himself, so surprised and delighted was he by the
sight that met his eyes.
He found himself crawling out of something like a well, on to
what seemed to be solid ground. The landscape about him was not
at all like that below: it was like an Indian paradise, full of dells,
bowers, scarlet ibises, and heaven knows what all. However, his
surprise and delight came less from these features of the back-
ground than from the presence of a young female in the nearest
of these bowers or arbors, which happened to be all wreathed, can-
opied, overgrown and intertwined with passion flowers. This de-
lightful creature, who was a positive houri, and very lightly attired,
seemed to be expecting Henry, and greeted him with rapture.
Henry, who had a sufficiently affectionate nature, flung his arms
round her neck and gazed deeply into her eyes. These were sur-
prisingly eloquent: they seemed to say, "Why not make hey hey
while the sun shines?"
He found the notion entirely agreeable, and planted a lingering
t kiss on her lips, noting only with a dim and careless annoyance
j that his wife was hooting and hollering from below. "What person
* of any tact or delicacy," thought he, "could hoot and holler at
such a moment?" and he dismissed her from his mind.
You may imagine his mortification when his delicious damsel
suddenly repulsed him from her arms. He looked over his shoulder,
and there was his wife, clambering over the edge, terribly red in
the face, with the fury of a demon in her eye, and the mighty
scimitar gripped well between her teeth.
Rope Enough 
Henry tried to rise, but she was beforehand with him, and while
yet he had but one foot on the ground, she caught him one across
the loins with the huge and jagged bilbo, which effectually ham-
strung him, so that he fell grovelling at her feet. "For heaven's
sake!" he cried. "It's all a trick. Part of the act. It means nothing.
Remember our public. The show must go on."
"It shall," said she, striking at his arms and legs.
"Oh, those notches!" cried he. "I beg you, my dear, sharpen
it a little upon a stone."
"It is good enough for you, you viper," said she, hacking away
all the time. Pretty soon Henry was a limbless trunk.
"For the love of God," said he, "I hope you remember the passes.
I can explain everything."
"To hell with the passes!" said she, and with a last swipe she
sent his head rolling like a football.
She was not long in picking up the scattered fragments of poor
Henry, and flinging them down to earth, amid the applause and
laughter of the crowd, who were more than ever convinced it was
all done by mirrors.
Then, gripping her scimitar, she was about to swarm down after
him, not from any soft-hearted intention of reassembling her un-
fortunate spouse, but rather to have another hack or two at some
of the larger joints. At that moment she became aware of someone
behind her, and, looking round, there was a divine young man,
with the appearance of a Maharaja of the highest caste, an abso-
lute Valentino, in whose eyes she seemed to read the words, "It is
better to burn upon the bed of passion than in the chair of elec-
This idea presented itself with an overwhelming appeal. She
paused only to thrust her head through the aperture, and cry,
"That's what happens to a pig of a man who betrays his wife with
a beastly native," before hauling up the rope and entering into
conversation with her charmer.
The police soon appeared upon the scene. There was nothing
but a cooing sound above, as if invisible turtle doves were circling
in amorous flight. Below, the various portions of Henry were scat-
tered in the dust, and the blue-bottle flies were already settling
 Rope Enough
The crowd explained it was nothing but a trick, done with
"It looks to me," said the sergeant, "as if the biggest one must
have splintered right on top of him."
/KjJ^jjK^^ CHASER Ir^lr^r^
ALAN AUSTEN, AS NERVOUS AS A KITTEN, WENT UP CERTAIN DARK
and creaky stairs in the neighborhood of Pell Street, and peered
about for a long time on the dim landing before he found the name
he wanted written obscurely on one of the doors.
He pushed open this door, as he had been told to do, and found
himself in a tiny room, which contained no furniture but a plain
kitchen table, a rocking-chair, and an ordinary chair. On one of
the dirty buff-colored walls were a couple of shelves, containing in
all perhaps a dozen bottles and jars.
An old man sat in the rocking-chair, reading a newspaper. Alan,
without a word, handed him the card he had been given. "Sit
down, Mr. Austen," said the old man very politely. "I am glad to
make your acquaintance."
"Is it true," asked Alan, "that you have a certain mixture that
has — er — quite extraordinary effects?"
"My dear sir," replied the old man, "my stock in trade is not
very large — I don't deal in laxatives and teething mixtures —
but such as it is, it is varied. I think nothing I sell has effects which
could be precisely described as ordinary."
"Well, the fact is — " began Alan.
"Here, for example," interrupted the old man, reaching for a
bottle from the shelf. "Here is a liquid as colorless as water, almost
tasteless, quite imperceptible in coffee, milk, wine, or any other
beverage. It is also quite imperceptible to any known method of
--"Do you mean it is a poison?" cried Alan, very much horri-
—"Call it a glove-cleaner if you like," said the old man indiffer-
ently. "Maybe it will clean gloves. I have never tried. One might
call it a life-cleaner. Lives need cleaning sometimes."
"I want nothing of that sort," said Alan.
"Probably it is just as well," said the old man. "Do you know
The Chaser 
the price of this? For one teaspoonful, which is sufficient, I ask
five thousand dollars. Never less. Not a penny less."
"I hope all your mixtures are not as expensive," said Alan appre-
"Oh dear, no," said the old man. "It would be no good charging
that sort of price for a love potion, for example. Young people who
need a love potion very seldom have five thousand dollars. Other-
wise they would not need a love potion."
"I am glad to hear that," said Alan.
"I look at it like this," said the old man. "Please a customer with
one article, and he will come back when he needs another. Even
if it is more costly. He will save up for it, if necessary."
"So," said Alan, "you really do sell love potions?"
"If I did not sell love potions," said the old man, reaching for
another bottle, "I should not have mentioned the other matter
to you. It is only when one is in a position to oblige that one can
afford to be so confidential."
"And these potions," said Alan. "They are not just — just —
"Oh, no," said the old man. "Their effects are permanent, and
extend far beyond the mere casual impulse. But they include it.
Oh, yes, they include it. Bountifully, insistently. Everlastingly."
"But consider the spirtual side," said the old man.
ment. "How very interesting!"
"But consider the spiritual side," said the old man.
"I do, indeed," said Alan.
"For indifference," said the old man, "they substitute devotion.
For scorn, adoration. Give one tiny measure of this to the young
lady — its flavor is imperceptible in orange juice, soup, or cock-
tails — and however gay and giddy she is, she will change alto-
gether. She will want nothing but solitude, and you."
"I can hardly believe it," said Alan. "She is so fond of parties."
"She will not like them any more," said the old man. "She will
be afraid of the pretty girls you may meet."
"She will actually be jealous?" cried Alan in a rapture. "Of me?"
"Yes, she will want to be everything to you."
"She is already. Only she doesn't care about it."
"She will, when she has taken this. She will care intensely. You
will be her sole interest in life."
 The Chaser
"Wonderful!" cried Alan.
"She will want to know all you do," said the old man. All that
has happened to you during the day. Every word of it. She will
want to know what you are thinking about, why you smile sud-
denly, why you are looking sad."
"That is love!" cried Alan.
"Yes," said the old man. "How carefully she will look after
you! She will never allow you to be tired, to sit in a draught, to
neglect your food. If you are an hour late, she will be terrified.
She will think you are killed, or that some siren has caught you."
"I can hardly imagine Diana like that!" cried Alan, overwhelmed
"You will not have to use your imagination," said the old man.
"And, by the way, since there are always sirens, if by any chance
you should, later on, slip a little, you need not worry. She will for-
give you, in the end. She will be terribly hurt, of course, but she
will forgive you — in the end."
"That will not happen," said Alan fervently.
"Of course not," said the old man. "But, if it did, you need not
worry. She would never divorce you. Oh, no! And, of course, she
herself will never give you the least, the very least, grounds for —
"And how much," said Alan, "is this wonderful mixture?"
"It is not as dear," said the old man, "as the glove-cleaner, or
life-cleaner, as I sometimes call it. No. That is five thousand dol-
lars, never a penny less. One has to be older than you are, to in-
dulge in that sort of thing. One has to save up for it."
"But the love potion?" said Alan.
"Oh, that," said the old man, opening the drawer in the kitchen
table, and taking out a tiny, rather dirty-looking phial. "That is
just a dollar."
"I can't tell you how grateful I am," said Alan, watching him
"I like to oblige," said the old man. "Then customers come back,
later in life, when they are rather better off, and want more ex-
pensive things. Here you are. You will find it very effective."
"Thank you again," said Alan. "Good-bye."
I "Au revoir" said the old man.
ffftffffffttfffffffffffff?ffffffffff?rffffffffffrfftVff9VVftffVffffv?ff?ffffffffffff ? ?ff? V f?f? V fffr V ffff f ff?f f 9ftf
ffl!^ THE DEVIL, GEORGE, AND ROSIE^l
THERE WAS A YOUNG MAN WHO WAS INVARIABLY SPURNED BY THE
girls, not because he smelt at all bad, but because he happened
to be as ugly as a monkey. He had a good heart, but this soured it,
and though he would still grudgingly admit that the female kind
were very agreeable in shape, size, and texture, he thought that in
all other respects they were the most stupid, blind, perverse, and
ill-natured bitches that had ever infested the earth.
He expressed this view very forcefully, and on all possible occa-
sions. One evening he was holding forth to a circle of his cronies:
it was in the Horseshoe Bar, at the bottom of the Tottenham
Court Road. He could not help noticing that his remarks at-
tracted the interest of a smart and saturnine individual seated at
the next table, who had the rather repulsive look of a detective
dressed up in evening clothes for the purpose of spying on a night-
Our friend was in no wise abashed by this scrutiny, but con-
tinued to say exactly what girls were, and what they did whenever
they got the chance. He, who had least evidence for it of any man
in the world, seemed to think they were unduly inclined to lascivi-
ousness. "Or else," said he, "in the other extreme, they are mer-
cenary prudes, or sadistical Dianas, whose delight it is to kindle
the fires of hell in a man's bosom and elsewhere, and triumphantly
to describe his agonies to their little friends. I speak of the fires of
hell — I wish they existed in reality, so that these harpies and
teasers might be sent there, and I myself would go willingly, if
only I could watch them frizzle and fry."
With that, he got up and went home. You may imagine his
astonishment, when he had climbed the high stairs to his poor
student's room, to find the dark and cynical stranger, who had
been watching him in the bar, now standing very much at his
ease upon the hearth-rug. At the very first glance, he realized this
was none other than the Devil himself, in whom for many years
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
he had had no belief at all. "I cannot easily describe," said that
worthy, with the smile of a man of the world, "the pleasure it
gives me to meet one of such insight and intelligence as Mr.
George made several sorts of protest, but the Devil smiled and
bowed like an ambassador. In the end he had buttered up George
to some effect, and carried him off to supper in a little restaurant
in Jermyn Street. It must be admitted, he stood a superb bottle
"I was vastly intrigued," said he, "by the views I heard you
expressing earlier this evening. Possibly, of course, they were born
of a mere passing petulance, pique, wounded vanity — call it what
"The Devil take me if they were!" cried George.
"Splendid!" said his companion. "We are getting on like a house
on fire. Now, my dear chap, my little difficulty is this. The domain
over which I have the honor and pleasure to preside was designed
originally on the most ample scale, but, nevertheless, certain re-
cent tendencies are fast rendering its confines too narrow, and its
supervision too onerous, for one who is not as young as he was."
"Sorry to hear that," said George.
"I could cope with the increase of the population of this planet,"
said the Devil. "I might have coped even with the emancipation
of women. But unfortunately the two are connected, and form a
vicious circle "
"I see exactly what you mean," said George.
"I wish I had never invented that particular sin," said the
Devil. "I do indeed. There are a thousand million women in the
world at this moment, and, with one or two negligible exceptions,
every one of them is damned."
"Fine!" said George.
"Very fine indeed," said the Devil, "from the artistic point of
view. But consider the pressure on space, and the ceaseless strain
"Squeeze 'em in!" cried George with enthusiasm. "Pack 'em
tight. That's what I say."
"They would then imagine themselves at a party," replied his
new friend, "and that would never do. No, no. Every one who
comes to me must have individual attention. I intend to open a
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
new department. The site is chosen. The builders are at work. All
that I need is a superintendent of iron personality."
"I should like to know a little about the climate, salary, and
prospects," said George, in a business-like tone.
"The climate, much like that of Oxford Street on a summer
afternoon," replied the Devil. "The salary is power, and the pros-
pects are infinite. But if you are interested, my dear fellow, allow
me to show you over the place. In any case, I should value your
opinion on it."
No sooner said than done: they sank into the bowels of the
earth, and came out in a suburb of Sydney, N.S.W.
"Here we are, then!" cried George.
"No, no," said the Devil. "Just a little farther on."
They proceeded with the speed of rockets to the northeast cor-
ner of the universe, which George perceived to be shaped exactly
like a pint of beer, in which the nebulae were the ascending bub-
bles. He observed with alarm a pair of enormous lips approaching
the upper rim of our space. "Do not be alarmed," said the Devil.
"That is a young medical student called Prior, who has failed his
exam three times in succession. However, it will be twenty million
billion light years before his lips reach the glass, for a young
woman is fixing him with her eye, and by the time he drinks all
the bubbles will be gone, and all will be flat and stale."
"Poor fellow!" cried our hero. "Damn these women!"
"Do not pity him," said the Devil very tolerantly. "This is his
fifth, and he is already as drunk as a lord, and closing time draws
near. What's more, our destination is at hand."
George saw that they were nearing what is sometimes called a
"fish" in this considerable pint of beer. As they approached it, he
saw it was a dark star of gigantic proportions, about which circled
a satellite many hundred times larger than the earth.
"That satellite," said his conductor, "is the spot I am proposing
to colonize with my new department. We will go straight there,
if you wish."
George assenting, they landed in a sterile and saturnine coun-
try, close by a palace of black basalt, which covered seven square
miles of ground.
"That's a snug-looking box!" cried our hero.
"Merely a pioneer's hut," said his companion. "My future over-
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
seer will have to rough it there until something better can be
George, however, observed a prodigious number of barrels
being run down into a cellar on the hinder side of this palace.
What's more, he saw several groups of fiends, who should have
been at their work, squatting in one of the unfinished galleries,
with cards in their hands.
"You actually play poker here?" said he, in tones of the liveliest
"We are connoisseurs of every pleasure," replied the Devil, with
a smile. "And when we play cards, everybody has an excellent
He showed George a number of masterly pictures: some of them
were a little indecent. There were also very splendid kitchens,
already staffed with cooks; kennels, stables, falconries, gun rooms,
grand halls, little cosy rooms, rooms devoted to every sort of
pastime, and gardens laid out rather like those of Versailles, only
much larger. There was a whole cellar full of fireworks of every
description. Not only these, but there were a number of other
delights, of a nature entirely new to the visitor. There was an
observatory, for example, from which the behaviour of any young
woman in the world could be closely inspected. "This is really a
very interesting device," murmured our hero.
"Come!" said the fiend. "We must not stay here all day. Doubt-
less you will want to see the rest of your domain."
"Yes, indeed," said George. "For of course I could not have the
prisoners here, unless now and then I had one haled up for special
The Devil then flew with him over the whole surface of the
planet, which, once they were clear of the palace and its lands,
proved to have an aspect not unlike that of the Great West Road,
where it approaches London. On every hand, rows of cells were
being run up; to add the final refinement of misery, they were
designed exactly like modern villas. Imitation husbands, who
could neither speak nor hear, were planted in armchairs with their
feet on the mantelpieces. The wardrobes were full of unfashion-
able garments. Small imps disguised as children were already re-
hearsing by dozens in all the upper rooms. The peculiar property
of the walls was to translate the noise of those next door into the
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
sound of a party going on, while the windows were so designed as
to make the dowdiest passer-by appear to be arrayed in the very
Vast bunion factories belched smoke among the crazy villas;
lorry-loads of superfluous hair clattered along the streets. George
was shown the towering gasometers of the halitosis works, and a
number of other things I do not dare imagine. He saw a great
concourse of fiends being instructed in door-to-door salesmanship;
others were being fitted out as relations-in-law, rent-collectors,
and bailiffs. He himself made two suggestions that were immedi-
ately put into force: one was for a stocking ladderer, and the
other for an elastic that would break in the middle of any crowded
As a final encouragement, the Devil took him over to the main-
land of Hell itself, which is girdled by the Styx as Saturn by his
ring. Charon's vast liner had just come to dock, and our hero had
the pleasure of seeing a multitude of film-stars, baby blondes,
unfaithful wives, disobedient daughters, frivolous typists, lazy
serving-maids, wantons, careless waitresses, cruel charmers, nag-
gers, sirens, clogs, unpunctual sweethearts, bridge-playing grand-
mas, extravagant helpmeets, mischief -making gossips, tantalizers,
female novelists, crazy debutantes, possessive mothers, neglectful
mothers, modern mothers, unmarried mothers, would-be, should-
be, in fact all who could be, mothers: they were all there, as naked
as your hand, and they filed down the gangway, some weeping,
some brazen, and some in attitudes of affected modesty.
"This is a magnificent sight," remarked our hero.
"Well, my dear sir," said the Devil, "are you the man for the
"I will do my best!" cried George enthusiastically.
They shook hands on it; all the little details were arranged;
before evening George was installed as principal vassal of all the
Devil's host, and overlord of a planet populated only by women
It must be admitted he enjoyed himself with a vengeance.
Every day he would go out, having donned his cap of invisibility,
and regale himself upon his subjects' endeavors to cope with the
hardships he had designed for them. Sometimes he would hold up
the ceaseless self-dirtying of plates, put the children to sleep, and
amuse them with the prospect of a matinee. He saw to it, though,
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
that they had to queue up for the cheap seats, and arranged for
it to rain. In the end, he would announce that the show was post-
He had a thousand other ways of tantalizing them: I shall not
enumerate them all. One of the best was to send for any newly
arrived young thing who was reported to be vain of her beauty,
and give her the impression for an hour or two that she had made
a conquest of him, and then (as far as was possible) undeceive her.
When the day's work was done, he sat down to cards with his
principal officers, and sure enough everyone had a good hand, but
his was the best. They drank like champions: the Devil was con-
stantly sending over the choicest delicacies from Hell; the word
"fine" was continually upon our hero's lips, and the time passed
One day, towards the end of the second year, our potentate had
just got through his levee, and was refreshing himself with a stroll
on a little private terrace which he much affected, when word was
brought to him that the senior port official desired an audience.
Our hero was the easiest fellow in the world to approach; never
stood upon his dignity. "Send the old chap along here," said he.
"And, hi! Bring a bottle and a couple of glasses back with you
when you come."
The fact is, George dearly loved a chat with these old petty
officers, who occasionally brought him reports of diverting little
incidents at the Ellis Island of Hell, or scraps of gossip concerning
the irrelevant affairs of the world, such as sometimes strayed in
among Charon's cargo, as lizards or butterflies travel to Covent
Garden among the bananas.
On this occasion, however, the harbor-master's face bore an
extremely worried expression. "I'm afraid, sir," he said, "I've got
a little irregularity to report."
"Well, we all make mistakes sometimes," said George. "What's
"It's like this here, sir," replied the old salt. "Young gal come
along o' the last cargo — seems as if she didn't ought to be here
"Oh, that'll be all right," cried George. "Bound to be. It's under-
stood we take the whole issue in these days. She's a woman: that's
enough. What's on her charge-sheet, anyway?"
"Lot o' little things, sir, what don't amount to much," replied
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
the honest fellow. "Fact is, sir, it ain't added up." And he pursed
"Not added up?" cried George in amazement.
"That's how it is, sir," said his subordinate glumly. "This young
gal ain't properly dead."
George was absolutely bowled over. "Whew!" said he. "But this
is serious, my man."
"It is serious, sir," said the old chap. "I don't know what's to be
done, I'm sure."
A score of fine legal points were involved. George dispatched
an S.O.S. for one of the leading casuists of Hell proper. Unfor-
tunately they were all engaged in committee, on some fine point
concerning an illuminated address which was being prepared for
the saviors of Germany. George therefore had nothing but prece-
dent to go on, and precedent made it clear that a mortal must sin
in such and such a way, die in such and such a condition, be
checked in, checked out: it was as complicated as a case in Court
Leet under a Statute of Ed. Tert. Rex., that statute being based
on precedents from the Saxon and Norman codes dually and dif-
ferently derived from a Roman adaptation of a Grseco-Egyptian
principle influenced prehistorically by rites and customs from the
basin of the Euphrates or the Indus. It was quite like an income-
tax form. George scratched his head in despair.
What made it all the worse was, the Devil himself had given
him most serious warning against the least infringement of priv-
ilege. "This is," he had said, "little better than mandated terri-
tory. We have built up, step by step, and with incredible ingenu-
ity, a system under which we live very tolerably, but we have only
done it by sailing devilishly near the metaphysical wind. One
single step beyond the strict legal limits, and I am back on my
red-hot throne, in that pit whose bottomlessness I shall heartily
envy. As for you "
George therefore had every incentive to caution. He turned
over a large number of volumes, tapped his teeth: in the end he
knew not what to make of it. "Send the young person in to me,"
When she arrived, she proved to be no more than seventeen
years of age. I should be telling a downright lie if I said she was
less beautiful than a peri.
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
George was not a bad fellow at heart. Like most of us, he was
capable of tyranny upon the featureless mass, but when he came
to grips with an individual his bark was a good deal worse than
his bite. Most of the young women he had had up for admonish-
ment had complained of little except his fickleness.
This young girl was ushered into his presence; the very lackeys
who brought her in rolled their eyes till the whites flickered like
the Eddystone Lighthouse. She was complete in every particular,
and all of the highest quality; she was a picture gallery, an anthol-
ogy of the poets, a precipitation of all that has ever been dreamed
of love: her goodly eyes lyke Saphyres shining bright, her fore-
head yvory white, her cheekes lyke apples which the sun hath
rudded, her lips lyke cherryes charming men to byte, her brest
lyke to a bowle of creame uncrudded, her paps lyke lyllies budded,
her snowie necke lyke to a marble towre; and all her body like a
pallace fayre, ascending up, with many a stately stayre, to hon-
ors seat and chastities sweet bowre.
Her name was Rosie Dixon. Moreover she gained enormously
in contrast to her surroundings, by the mere fact of being alive.
It was as though a cowslip were to bloom miraculously between
the dark and sterile metals of the Underground; as if its scent
were wafted to one's nostrils on the nasty, sultry, canned sirocco
of that region. It is no exaggeration to say that she was as good
as she was beautiful. It is true her pretty face was a little blub-
bered with tears. "My dear," said George, taking her hand, "there
is no reason for you to cry in that fashion. Don't you know the
good old saying, 'Never holler before you're hurt'?"
"Pray, sir," cried she, having taken a long, dewy peep at his
monkey-phiz, and seeing a vast amount of good nature there.
"Pray, sir," said she, "tell me only, where am I?"
"Why, in Hell, to be sure," said he, with a hearty laugh.
"Oh, thank goodness!" cried she. "I thought I was in Buenos
"Most of 'em think that," said our hero, "owing to the liner.
But I must say you are the first who has shown any gratification
on learning otherwise."
They had a little more conversation of this sort; he questioned
her pretty closely as to how she came to be stowed away on
Charon's vessel. It appeared that she was a shop-girl who had
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
been much tormented by her workmates; why, she could not say.
However, she had to serve a young man who came in to buy some
stockings for his sister. This young man had addressed to her a
remark that brought her soul fluttering to her lips. At that very
moment, the crudest of her envious colleagues had maneuvered
to pass behind her, and had bestowed on her a pinch so spiteful,
so sudden, and so intensely and laceratingly agonizing, that her
poised soul was jolted from its perch: it had spread its wings and
borne off her swooning body as a woodcock bears off its young.
When she had regained her senses, she was locked in one of the
narrow state-rooms of a vast ship, stewarded by what she took to
be black men, and resounding with the hysterical laughter and
screams of captives of her own sex.
George was very thorough: he minutely examined what little
evidence she had to offer. "There is no doubt," said he at length,
speaking in tones of the greatest sympathy, "that you have re-
ceived a very cruel pinch. When your tormentor comes into my
hands, I myself will repay it a hundredfold."
"No, no," said she. "She did not mean so much harm. I'm sure
she is a good girl at heart. It is just her little way."
George was overcome with admiration at this remark, which,
however, caused a tremor to pass through the whole of the vast
black palace. "Upon my word!" said he. "I can't keep you here.
You will bring the whole place crashing about my ears. I dare not
put you in one of our punishment cells, for, if I did so against
your will, all our system of home rule would be snatched away
from us, and we should return to the crude discomforts of primi-
tive times. That would be intolerable. There is a museum over on
the mainland that would make your blood run cold."
"Could you not send me back to earth?" said she.
"No woman has ever left this place alone!" cried he in despair.
"My position is so delicate I dare not make an innovation."
"Do not take on so," said she. "I cannot bear to think of so kind
a gentleman being plunged into fiery torments. I will stay volun-
tarily, and perhaps then no fuss will be made. I hope it will not
be terribly painful."
"You adorable creature!" cried he. "I must give you a kiss for
that. I believe you have solved the difficulty."
She gave him back his kiss, as sweetly and purely as you can
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
possibly imagine. "Oh, hell!" he cried in great anguish of spirit.
"I cannot bear to think of you undergoing the miseries of this
place. My dear, good girl "
"I don't mind," she said. "I have worked in a shop in Oxford
He gave her a pat or two, and signed up a form for her: "Re-
manded in custody at own request."
"This is only temporary, after all," he said. "Otherwise I would
not permit it."
Very well, she kept a stiff upper lip, and was carted off to a
hateful box as cruelly equipped as any of the others. For a whole
week George kept his head, reading love lyrics to distract his
mind. At the end, he could put the matter behind him no longer.
"I must go," said he, "and see how she is getting on."
In Hell, all the officials travel with incredible speed. In a very
few minutes George had passed over a couple of continents, and
was tapping at the mean front door of poor Rosie's little habita-
tion. He had not chosen to put on his cap of fern-seed virtue, or
perhaps he never thought of it: anyway, she came to the door
with three or four of the imps hanging about her apron-strings,
and recognized him at once. He observed that she had on the
drab and unfashionable garments provided by the authorities, in
which her appearance was that of a rose in a jam-pot.
What raised an intolerable burden from his heart was the fact
that the superfluous hair had obviously failed to take root upon
her living flesh. He found on inquiry that she had used it to stuff
a pillow with, which she had placed behind the head of the snor-
ing imitation husband who gracelessly sprawled before the fire.
She admitted a little tuft flourished on the bruise, where she had
"No doubt it will fall off," said our hero scientifically, "when
the tissues resume their normal condition. These things were de-
signed to flourish upon carrion only, whereas you — " and he
smacked his lips.
"I hope it will fall off," said she, "for scissors will not cut it.
And since I promised some to the eldest of these toddlers, to make
him a false moustache of, no more has arrived."
"Shall I try to cut it off?" said our hero.
"No, no," said she, with a blush. "He has stopped crying now.
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
They were all very querulous when first I came here, but now they
are improved out of all knowledge."
While she spoke, she busied her ringers with a succession of
little tasks. "You seem to be terribly busy," complained George.
"Forgive me," said she, with a smile, "but there is such a terrible
lot to do. Still, it makes the time pass."
"Do you never," said he, "wish to go to the matinee?"
"That would never do," she replied. "Supposing he should wake
up" (pointing to the imitation husband) "and call for his tea.
Besides, I have plenty of entertainment: the people next door
seem always to have a party; it does me good to hear them laugh
and sing. What's more, when I'm cleaning the windows, as needs
doing pretty often, I always see the most beautifully dressed
creatures go by. I love to see people in pretty clothes."
"Your own are not very attractive," said George in a melan-
"They are plain enough," said she, with a laugh. "But I'm far
too busy to think about that. All I could wish is that they were
of slightly stronger materials. The stockings laddered so often I've
had to give up wearing them. And whenever I go out shopping —
Still, you don't want to hear all this."
George was so devoured by remorse that he had not the spirit
to ask an interesting question. "Good-bye," said he, pressing her
She gave him the sweetest glance: he felt it no more than his
duty to offer her an encouraging kiss. The doors began to bang,
the fire belched smoke, the imps opened their mouths to yell.
"No, no," said she, with just so much of inexpressible regret as
to soften the cruelty of it. And she pointed to the dummy husband
before the fire.
"Don't worry about him!" cried our hero. "He's only a dummy."
With that, he gave the image a kick, capsizing it into the
"Well, if he's not a real husband," said Rosie, "I suppose there
is nothing wrong in it." And with that she gave George a kiss,
which he found altogether delightful, except that as it increased
the high esteem in which he held her, so also it increased his misery
in having placed her in such a condition.
When he got home, the poor fellow could neither eat nor sleep.
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
He called up a few of his officers to pass away the night at poker,
but though he held four straight flushes in succession, he could
take no pleasure in it. In the morning, the telephone bell rang.
George's was the only instrument on the planet which did not go
wrong as soon as one began to speak; on this occasion he would
willingly have surrendered the advantage. The Devil was at the
other end, and he was in a towering rage. He made no bones about
accusing our hero of downright morality.
"You curse and swear very well," said the victim in an injured
tone. "All the same, it was not my fault she came here. I clearly
see she may prove a disintegrating influence if I keep her, but, if
I may not send her back, I don't see what else I can do."
"Why, tempt her, you idiot!" replied the Devil. "Have you
never tempted woman before?"
"As far as I know, no," said George frankly.
"Well, do so now," said the Devil in quite a silky tone, which
nevertheless caused blue sparks to crackle from the instrument.
"Once we get possession of her soul, there will not be much fuss
made about her body. I leave the matter in your hands entirely.
If you fail me, there are one or two ancient institutions over here
which I shall take pleasure in reviving entirely for your benefit."
George detested the idea of tempting this singularly good and
beautiful young girl; however, the prospect was not so unredeem-
edly repulsive as that of immersion in boiling brimstone. He took
a glass or two, to stifle what regrets he had, and sent for Rosie to
attend him in a silken pavilion, which he had rigged up among the
groves and fountains which enclosed his citadel. He considered this
fabric to be preferable to blocks of black basalt, in the event of
some disruptive phrase of hers bringing the roof about their ears.
It was not very long before she arrived, although it seemed so.
Heaven knows how she preserved her radiant health in the nasty
grey air of Hell's outer suburbs: she looked as fresh and bright as
ever, and seemed to glow through her cheerless wrappings as a
peach glows through tissue paper. Nevertheless, George was natu-
rally a slow starter, especially when his conscience was involved.
He certainly greeted her very warmly, but if all the scientists in
the world had had these hugs and kisses in a test tube, they could
not have separated one atom of sin out of them, for they were as
simple and natural as could possibly be desired.
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
I admit the simple and natural is as good a beginning as any
other. George, however, proceeded only to the offer of a cup of
tea, which is not sinful except at the University. They began to
chat: he was unable to resist telling her of his joys and sorrows
in the neighborhood of the Tottenham Court Road, and the reason
for this was that he wished her to know everything about him.
She herself was no less frank: it is impossible to describe the emo-
tion with which George heard that she had become an orphan at
the age of fourteen, and had since then lived with an old aunt,
who was inclined to severity. The moments passed like flowers
of that precious edelweiss joy which blooms on the brink of the
The light began to fade; the warbling of blackbirds and thrushes
now sank into a stillness from which soon arose the diviner strains
of the nightingale. Our young people, seated at the entrance of
the tent, found their tongues fall idle, and sat in a divine languor
which, also, like a silence of the being, permitted the first faint
notes of a new music to become audible in their hearts. In this
far, wild corner of the garden, the effect was a little Chinese, with
a profusion of willow trees, which now turned blue in the dim-
Their fingers interlocked. The moon, which in those parts is of
gigantic size, being no other than Hell itself, rose behind the
shadowy trees. "They say," said Rosie in a dreamy voice, "that
those marks on it are craters."
One person's dream may well be another's awakening. George
was at once galvanized into activity. "Come," said he. "It is time
we began dinner. It's my birthday, so there's lots of champagne."
He hoped by these words to inveigle the simple girl into making
a feast of it. However, he started under a handicap, for he was
already as drunk as a lord on the very sound of her voice. A man's
true nature appears when he is in that condition: George was
prepared to jeopardize his whole future for an amorous whim. His
brain reeled under the onslaught of a legion of virtuous thoughts.
He even conceived the notion of suggesting to the Devil that it
should be the dummy husband who should be cast into the boiling
brimstone, and that he should take that useless effigy's place, but
from this act of madness the thought of the imps restrained him.
The remembrance of his master brought him back to Hell for a
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
moment. "My dear," said he, patting her hand, "how would you
like to be a film-star?"
"Not at all," said she.
"What?" said he.
"Not at all," said she.
"Oh!" said he. "Well! Well! Well!"
He had a diamond necklace in his pocket, ready to tempt her
with, but could not restrain himself from hanging it uncondition-
ally about her neck, he was so delighted by this answer of hers.
She was pleased, even more than by the gift itself, by the spirit
in which it was given. She thought George the kindest and the
best of men, and (whether it was the wine or not, I'll not say) she
would have even stuck to it that he was handsome.
Altogether, the meal went off as merry as a marriage bell; the
only drawback was that George could see no signs of a fitting
sequel. Some would say the brimstone was a sequel sufficiently
appropriate: that was not George's idea at all. In fact, when he
had played all his cards in this half-hearted fashion, he was sud-
denly overcome by a hideous prevision of his fate, and could not
repress a most alarming groan.
"What is it, my dear?" cried Rosie, in the tenderest of voices.
"Oh, nothing," said he, "nothing at all. Only that I shall burn
for ever if I fail to seduce you."
"That is what the young man said at the stocking counter,"
said she in dismay.
"But I mean it," said he dolorously, "and in brimstone, which,
I assure you, is altogether a different proposition from love, what-
ever the poets may say."
"You are right," said she, in a happier voice than seemed en-
tirely fitting, "love is altogether different from brimstone," and
with that she squeezed his hand.
"I fear it will give me no peace in which to remember you," said
he, positively photographing her with his eyes.
"You shall not go there," said she.
"He said I must!" cried George.
"Not," said she, "if — if it will save you to "
"To what?" cried George.
"To seduce me," faltered Rosie.
George protested very little; he was altogether carried away by
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
the charming manner in which she expressed herself. He flung his
arms about her, and endeavored to convey, in one single kiss, all
his gratitude for her kindness, his admiration for her beauty, his
respect for her character, and his regret that she should have
been orphaned at the age of fourteen and left to the care of an
aunt who was a little inclined to severity. This is a great deal to
be expressed in one single kiss: nevertheless, our hero did his best.
Next morning, he had to telephone his report to the Devil. "I'll
hold your hand," said Rosie.
"Very well, my darling," said he. "I shall feel better so."
His call was put through like lightning. The Devil, like thunder,
asked him how he had got on.
"The young woman is seduced," said George, in a rather
"Excellent!" returned his master. "Now tell me exactly how it
"I thought," said George, "that you were supposed to be a
"I am inquiring," said the Devil, "in a strictly professional ca-
pacity. What I wish to get at is her motive in yielding to your
almost too subtle charm."
"Why?" cried George. "You don't think that splendid girl would
see me frizzling and frying in a lake of boiling brimstone?"
"Do you mean to say," cried the Devil in a terrifying voice,
"that she has sacrificed her virtue merely to save you from punish-
"What other inducement," asked our hero, "do you imagine
would have been likely to prevail?"
"You besotted fool!" cried his master, and proceeded to abuse
him ten times more roundly than before.
George listened in fear and rage. When he had done cursing him,
the Devil continued in a calmer voice, "There is only one thing to
be done," said he, "and you may consider yourself very fortunate
that you (you worm!) are needed to play a part in it. Otherwise
you would be frizzling before sunset. As it is, I see I must give the
matter my individual attention, and the first step is that you must
marry the girl."
"By all means," replied our hero briskly.
"I shall send you a bishop to perform the ceremony," continued
The Devil, George, and Rosie [HI]
the fiend, "and next week, if I am better of my present fit of the
gout, I shall require you to present me to your wife, and I myself
will undertake her temptation."
"Temptation to what?" asked George, in a tone of great anxiety.
"To that sin to which wives are peculiarly fitted," replied the
Devil. "Does she like a waxed moustache?"
"Oh dear! He says," whispered George to Rosie, "do you like a
"No, darling," said Rosie. "I like a bristly, sandy one, like
"She says she likes a bristly, sandy one, like mine," said George,
not entirely without complacency.
"Excellent! I will appear in one yet bristlier and sandier," re-
plied the fiend. "Keep her by you. I have never failed yet. And,
"Oh, yes, yes," said George. "What is it now?"
"Be discreet," said the Devil, in a menacing tone. "If she gets
wind of my intentions, you shall be in the brimstone within an
George hung up the receiver. "Excuse me, my dear," he said,
"I really must go and think over what I have just heard."
He walked out among his groves of willows, which were then all
freshened by the morning dew, and resounding with the songs of
birds. It was, of all the mornings of his life, that on which he would
most have appreciated his first cigarette, had it not been for his
conversation with the Devil. As it was, he did not bother to light
one. "The thing is," he said to himself, "he must either succeed or
fail. In the latter case his fury will be intolerable; in the former
case mine will be."
The problem seemed to defy solution, and so it would have
done, had it not been that love, whose bemusing effects have been
celebrated often enough in song and story, has another and an
ungratefully neglected aspect, in which the mind receives the
benefit of clarifying calm. When the first flurry of his perturbation
had passed, our hero found himself in possession of a mind as cool
and unclouded as the sea-strand sky of earliest dawn. He imme-
diately lit his cigarette.
"After all, we have some days to go," he murmured, "and time
is entirely relative. Consider, for example, that fellow Prior, who
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
is at this very moment about to drink up the universe, and who
will still be arrested in the act of doing so long after all our little
lives have passed away. On the other hand, it is certainly not for
me to deny that certain delightful moments can take on the aspect
of eternity. Besides, we might always escape."
The thought had entered his mind as unostentatiously as, no
doubt, the notion of writing Paradise Lost entered Milton's —
"H'm, I'll write Paradise Lost" "Besides, we might always es-
cape." Just a few words, which, however, made all the difference.
All that remained, in one case as in the other, was to work out the
Our hero was ingenious. What's more, he was assisted in his
reflections by the hoarse cry, like that of a homing swan, of
Charon's siren. It was the hour when that worthy, having cast
loose from the quays of Hell, where he dropped his male cargo,
turned his great ship towards George's planet. It came into sight,
cleaving the morning blue, flashing in the beams of the local sun,
leaving behind it a wake like that of a smoke-trailing aeroplane,
only altogether better. It was a glorious sight. Soon George could
see the women scampering up and down the decks, and hear their
cry: "Is that Buenos Aires?"
He lost no time, but, repairing to his palace, and seating himself
in the most impressive of its salons, he sent forth a messenger to
the docks, saying, "Bid the skipper come up and have a word
Charon soon came stumping along in the wake of the messenger.
He might have been inclined to grumble, but his eyes brightened
at the sight of a bottle George had on his desk. This contained
nothing less than the Old Original Rum of Hell, a liquor of the
fieriest description, and now as rare as it is unappreciated.
"Skipper," said George, "you and I have got on well enough
hitherto, I believe. I have to ask you a question, which may seem
to reflect a little on your capacities. However, I don't ask it on my
own behalf, you may be sure, and in order to show my private
estimation of you as a friend, as a man, and above all as a sea-dog
of the old school, I am going to ask you to do me the favor of
taking a little tipple with me first."
Charon was a man of few words. "Aye! Aye!" said he.
George then poured out the rum. When Charon had wet his
The Devil, George, and Rosie 
whistle, "The chief," said George, "is in a secret fury with you
over Mrs. Soames of Bays water."
"Avast," said Charon, with a frown.
"Has it slipped your memory that I mentioned her to you on
two previous occasions?" continued our hero. "She is now a hun-
dred and four, and as cross as two sticks. The chief wants to know
why you have not brought her along months ago." As he spoke, he
refilled Charon's glass.
"Avast," said that worthy again.
"Perhaps," said George, "among your manifold onerous duties,
his express commands concerning one individual may have
seemed unworthy of your attention. I'm sure J should have for-
gotten the matter altogether, had I such a job as yours. Still, you
know what he is. He has been talking of changes at the Admiralty:
however, pay no attention to that. I have to visit the earth myself
on important business, and I find that the young woman you
brought by such a regrettable mistake has had training as a hos-
pital nurse. Between us, I assure you, we will shanghai the old
geezer in a brace of shakes; the chief will find her here when he
recovers from his gout, and foul weather between you will be
With that he poured the rest of the rum into the old salt's glass.
"Aye! Aye!" said that worthy.
George at once pressed the bell, and had Rosie ushered in, in a
bewitching uniform. "To the ship, at once!" he cried.
"Aye! Aye!" cried Charon.
"I can take you back," whispered George to his beloved, "as
long as you don't look round. If you do, we are lost."
"Depend upon me," she said. "Nothing will ever make me cast
a single glance behind while you and I are together."
Very well, they got aboard. Charon believed all landlubbers
were mad; moreover, he had long suspected machinations against
him at headquarters, and was obliged to George for giving him
word of them. George ordered a whole case of the admirable rum
(the last case in existence) to be placed in his cabin, lest Charon
should remember that old Mrs. Soames had never been mentioned
to him at all.
Amid hoots and exclamations in technical language the great
ship left her moorings. George, on the pretext that he had to main-
 The Devil, George, and Rosie
tain constant communication with his chief, took over the wireless
operator's cabin. You may be sure Satan was in a fury when he
heard what had happened; but the only effect of that was that
his gouty members became a thousand times worse inflamed, and
grew still more so when he found it impossible to establish com-
munication with the ship.
The best he could do was to conjure up, in the trackless wastes
of space, such dumb images as might tempt Rosie to glance behind
her. A Paris hat would bob up like a buoy on the starboard bow,
and a moment later (so great was the speed of the ship) be toss-
ing far astern. On other occasions, the images of the most famous
film-actors would be descried sitting on the silver planets of far
constellations, combing their hair. She was exposed to a hundred
temptations of this sort, and, what was cruder, she was subjected,
by pursuant imps, to ceaseless tweakings of the hair, tuggings of
the garments, sensations as of a spider down her back, and to all
sorts of odious familiarities, far better imagined than described.
The devoted girl, holding fast to the forward rail of the boat-deck,
never so much as flickered an eye.
The result of this devotion, coupled with George's vigilance at
the earphones and Charon's drunkenness below, was that they
soon heaved to in the latitudes of the earth. George and Rosie
were set to slide at dizzy speed down an invisible rope, and they
found themselves safely in bed beside the old centenarian, Mrs.
She was in a tearing rage when she found this young couple
beside her. "Get out of here at once!" she cried.
"All right," they said, "we will."
The very next day I met them in Oxford Street, looking in the
windows of the furniture shops, and George acquainted me with
the whole story.
"And you say," said I, "that the universe is really a vast pint
"Yes," said he. "It is all true. To prove it, I will show you the
very place where Rosie was pinched by the envious young
"The very place?" I cried.
"Yes," said he. "It was in that shop over there, at the counter
to the right as you go in, just at the end of the stockings, and
before the beginning of the lingerie."
fj!fj»fffff!fff»ffff»fff f f??f f ffff f »fff f ffff f »fff f ff?f t f!ffjtfff f ffff f tfff f ftff f tf?f f ffff f ?fff f ff?f f f!ff f ffff f ffff
jZI?f»ZiJfj!lIf3lIJfjUt GREAT POSSIBILITIES ^^^^
THERE ARE CERTAIN PEOPLE WHO DO NOT COME TO FULL FLOWER
till they are at least fifty. Among these are all males named
Murchison. A Mr. Murchison is nothing without pink cheeks,
white whiskers, and vintage port. There are no females of this
name, except by accident. In fact, one wonders how the breed is
continued, since bachelorhood is a fourth essential attribute of a
true Murchison. Fortunately, they tend to be lawyers of the old-
fashioned school, and old-fashioned family lawyers know all sorts
of peculiar secrets.
By keeping at it twenty-four hours a day, and for well over fifty
years, Mr. Benjamin Murchison had succeeded in becoming a
nearly perfect specimen of his race. He was fit to be stuffed and
put in a museum, although there, of course, he could not have
beamed and twinkled so benevolently.
He was very comfortably off, and could have been really
wealthy, but certain of the more remunerative fields of law were
not entirely to his taste. Indeed, he had become so fastidious that
he would have retired completely, but many of his old friends had
died and had left estates to be divided among their children, and
to all these numerous broods Mr. Murchison was guardian, trus-
tee, adviser, friend, and uncle.
Nothing delighted him more than to pay visits to his young
friends, and nothing delighted them more than to have him.
Although nearly perfect, Mr. Murchison had one little eccen-
tricity, which he kept extremely private. It was a mere nothing, a
thought, a whim; it seems almost unfair to mention it. The fact
is, he felt that nothing in the world would be nicer than to set fire
to a house and watch it blaze.
What is the harm in that? Who has not had a similar bright
vision at some time or other? There is no doubt about it; it would
be nice, very nice indeed, absolutely delightful. But most of us
are well broken in and we dismiss the idea as impracticable. Mr.
Great Possibilities 
Murchison found that it took root in his mind and blossomed
there like a sultry flower.
When thoughts of this delightful description occurred to him,
which was increasingly often, he would smile all over his face and
rub his hands together with a zest that was very pleasant to be-
hold. Having rubbed them, he would spread them out, as if to
enjoy the cheerful blaze of a Christmas fire. Nothing could be
more benevolent than his aspect when indulging in this little
mannerism. Young wives who had married into the circle of his
wards and proteges would at once think of him as a godfather.
Mr. Murchison was always the first to inspect and praise a new
home. "Ah!" said he, on looking over Millicent and Rodney's, "I
am glad you have chosen the Colonial style. I am glad you have
built in wood; it is a fine tradition. It is cool in summer, and can
be warm, very warm, in winter. Of course you have a good cellar?
Excellent! Excellent! And there is your front door; the back door,
I suppose, is through there? Yes, that is beautifully planned. A
fine current of air — there is nothing like it. I like these long dra-
peries, Millicent. Some people like little, skimpy, short draperies;
I vastly prefer long ones. Well, you have a delightful home, my
dears. I hope you have it completely insured."
"Oh, yes. We have the house covered," Rodney said. "But as
for Millie's precious antiques — you know how she absolutely wore
herself to death going round picking them up at auctions. Well,
you can't insure blood and sweat, of course. She'd be absolutely
brokenhearted if anything happened. Still, touching wood, let's
hope it won't. How did we get talking about this sort of thing
At this, Mr. Murchison lost a little of his sparkle, but the fol-
lowing week he motored up to Buck and Ida's, a fine old place on
a hill in the Berkshires, and four miles from a one-horse fire sta-
tion. The situation was superb. Probably on a clear, windy night
the house, ablaze, would have been visible fifty miles away. But
Buck was an architect, and his competition plans were all done in
his spare time at home. His study was full of them.
At Dick and Lucy's there were three high gables, rich with
promise of the most dramatic effects imaginable, so Mr. Murchi-
son rubbed his hands like an Indian rubbing two sticks of wood.
"You rub your hands so briskly, Uncle Ben," said Lucy, smiling
[US] Great Possibilities
happily at the sight of him. "One would almost expect to see
sparks flying from your fingers. Electricity, you know." She went
on to tell how Dick's book on insect civilizations was nearly
finished, notes and draft chapters littered all over the house — five
years of work — and soon he would be famous.
So Mr. Murchison travelled on. Cecily had all her father's
books, John had the family portraits, Tom and Lisbeth had little
Tom and little Lisbeth.
Sometimes, when Mr. Murchison went walking in the mornings
during his weekend visits, he was reduced to hailing some passing
farmhand and asking to whom that old barn belonged, and if the
owner might be likely to take a price for it just as it stood. But
he speedily dismissed impulses of that sort as altogether un-
Pity this sweet-natured old gentleman, compelled to visit a
tantalizing succession of wooden houses and always finding some
little obstacle which would have deterred no one less goodhearted
At length a letter reached Mr. Murchison from Mark and
Vicky, whom he had not seen for rather a long time, begging him,
with exclamation marks, to come and inspect their new, magnifi-
cent abode. "Come and warm the place up for us!" they said. He
went the very next weekend, and Mark and Vicky met him at the
"Now, what is all this?" said he. "A new house, and this is the
first I hear of it! You may imagine I am all agog. Tell me, is it one
you have built or — "
"Ask Mark," said Vicky in a disgruntled tone. "It's nothing to
do with me. Except I have to live in it."
"It was my mother's uncle's," said Mark, dealing ferociously
with the gears of the car. "And now it's mine."
"The sins of the mother's uncles are visited on the children,"
said Vicky, with an obvious effort at good humor.
"But what about your little place at Willowdale?" asked Mr.
Murchison. "I thought you were so very fond of it."
"We were," said Mark.
"Don't make me weep," said Vicky. "When I think of the
garden — "
"Yes, don't make her weep," said Mark. "We had to rent Wil-
Great Possibilities [H&]
lowdale. You see, we have to pay the taxes on this place. Twenty-
eight rooms! You can't rent it, you can't sell it. So we had to move
in. Here's the gate. Now you'll see it. Look."
"Dear me!" said Mr. Murchison. "Dear me!"
"That's what everyone says," said Vicky. "A castle on the
Rhine, built in clapboard!"
"The other side has a touch of the Taj Mahal," said Mark.
"Well, well, well!" said Mr. Murchison. "And yet — and yet, you
know, perhaps you think I am old-fashioned, but I feel it has
possibilities. Those pinnacles! Those things which conceivably
may have been meant to suggest flying buttresses! And that
minaret-like structure at the very top of all! Seen under the right
conditions . . ." And he beamed more jovially than he had beamed
"Oh, come, Uncle Ben!" said Vicky.
"Never mind me," said he, rubbing his hands. "Never mind an
old fogy. Perhaps I am a little eccentric. I must confess it needs
a spark of imagination. But then — yes, it has possibilities. The
insurance must be very high."
"The rascals have had a fortune in premiums," said Mark. "I'm
going to stop it. However, let me take your bags."
"Mind the big box," said Mr. Murchison. "It's just a dozen of
a little wine I thought you'd like. Put it down in the cellar and
I'll unpack it myself before dinner."
Mr. Murchison frequently took presents of wine to his young
friends. He felt it was one of the gracious duties of a quasi-uncle.
He also felt the straw bottle-wrappers might somehow come in
They went into the house, and Vicky, with bitter mirth, showed
him a vast succession of rooms through which the wind whistled,
as if to keep up its spirits.
"We just live in a corner of the damned place," said Vicky,
"and we'll end up all thin and dry and pale, with great, long nails,
"Oh, come!" said Mr. Murchison. "I'm sure something will turn
up. We must get the neighbors to come round. A little light, a
little warmth, a little bustle and the old place will seem quite dif-
ferent. Believe me, my dear, things may change overnight."
And, indeed, when Mr. Murchison went down to unpack the
 Great Possibilities
wine, it really seemed as if they would. He made admirable dis-
position of the straw wrappers in which the bottles were packed
and emerged from the cellar in the highest of spirits, rubbing his
hands with a gusto that would have warmed the cockles of your
heart. It was as well that he was so jovial, for otherwise dinner
would have been a very gloomy meal. Mark and Vicky were
already far into the bickering stage.
"I can't help it," said Mark, in reply to complaints he had obvi-
ously heard before. "I've told you a hundred times we'll clear out
as soon as we can afford to."
"Can you beat that, Uncle Ben?" cried Vicky. "As soon as we
can afford to live in tiny six-roomed Willowdale!"
"Oh, please forget it!" said Mark, rather loudly. "Just for a little
"Don't shout," said Vicky. "I don't wonder Uncle Ben sniffs at
"What?" said Mr. Murchison. "Sniff? At Mark? Never in my
"Good heavens! Can it be the fish?" cried Vicky. "Please say
so, Uncle Ben, if it is."
"No, no," said he. "It is excellent."
"But you don't eat it," said she. "You do nothing but sniff."
"On my word, Vicky," said Mr. Murchison, defending his plate,
"I am enjoying myself enormously."
"Don't tell me," said Vicky. "If the fish is all right, you must
have a cold. Oh dear!"
"No, I have not," said he. "But that reminds me. The nights
are getting brisk. I hope you have a warm wrap handy, my dear."
"Oh, I am warm enough," said Vicky. "But are you cold? The
heating here is like everything else."
"Thank you," said he. "I am very comfortable. I just thought
— if we should go outside. On the lawn, you know."
"The lawn?" said Mark. "Go out on the lawn? Why should we
go out on the lawn?"
"Ah, yes! You are right. Why should we?" said Mr. Murchison
in some confusion. "A very sensible question. Now, what put the
idea into my head? How ridiculous! Let us forget it. Tell me,
Mark, who built this amazing place?"
"It was my Great-Uncle Coxon," said Mark.
Great Possibilities [ 121 ]
"Coxon? Do you mean the banker?" asked Mr. Murchison.
"Yes," said Mark. "And they used to wonder why banks failed!"
"He was the father of the famous Annabel Coxon," said Vicky.
"The great beauty. You must have known her, Uncle Ben. Were
you one of her admirers?"
"Well . . ." said Mr. Murchison, his smile fading.
"This," said Mark, "is the scene of her adorable girlhood. Her
little white bedroom was presumably in some goddam turret."
"She was born here. Yes, of course. She was a child here," mur-
mured Mr. Murchison, now not smiling at all.
"It was her bower," said Mark, "the scene of her maiden
dreams. Her lovely ghost is probably scampering around upstairs
at this moment. In pantalettes, or whatever they wore. I wish
I could meet it."
"Uncle Ben is not amused," said Vicky. "I bet you were in love
with her, Uncle Ben. Do tell."
"I? What a notion! Dear me!" said Mr. Murchison, looking
quite shaken. "At all events, she was a lovely creature. Yes. 'Her
lovely ghost,' you said. Quite a felicitous expression! Well, well,
"But seriously," said Mark, "isn't it extraordinary? She prob-
ably loved this place, which is driving us melancholy mad."
"She did," said Mr. Murchison. "I remember her describing it.
Yes, she did indeed."
"Was she pretty?" asked Vicky. "Was she full of life?"
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Murchison. "Very lovely. Very alive. Alive
in a way — well, perhaps I'm growing old. In these days people
don't seem to be alive that way. Alive like a bird singing. Except,
of course, you, my dear," he added politely.
"And was she nice?" said Vicky.
"Yes," said Mr. Murchison. "Very nice. Later on, some people
thought, she grew a little — different. But she was so young when
first I knew her. She must have just come from this house. Yes,
very nice. 'Her lovely ghost!' Dear me! Well, I'm glad you are
looking after the old place, my boy. It would be a pity if — if it
went to ruin. Oh, my God!"
"What? What is it, Uncle Ben?"
"What is that I smell?" cried he. "Do I smell burning? I do!"
"Burning?" said Mark.
 Great Possibilities
"I know!" cried Mr. Murchison. "Keep your heads, pray! Re-
main precisely where you are! I shall be back in a moment." And
he darted from the room.
"Well, I'll be damned!" said Mark to Vicky after they had
stared at one another for a time. "Has the old boy gone crazy, or
"I think I did smell smoke," said she. "Can he have left a ciga-
rette in the cellar, do you think?"
"Maybe," said Mark. "I suppose he'll shout if it's anything
Soon afterward, Mr. Murchison returned. "Nothing at all," said
he, smiling. "Just my fancy. I knew it."
"But you have a great smear of black on your face," said Vicky.
"And look at your hands! Uncle Ben, you left a cigarette in the
"Well," said he, "perhaps I did. I confess I did. Don't be angry
with me, Vicky."
"Angry!" said Mark, laughing. "We are, though — for putting
it out. Why didn't you let the confounded place burn down?"
"My dear boy," said Mr. Murchison, "I know you are joking.
That would be a very serious crime. Arson, in fact. Besides, a
house, you know, is not like a — a haystack. There is something
alive about an old house, Mark. It has its memories."
"When we go," said Mark, "this house will have a hangover."
"I can't help feeling you somehow don't care very much for the
place," said Mr. Murchison. "You said you find it hard to rent or
"Not hard," said Mark. "Impossible."
"Not impossible," said Mr. Murchison. "You could sell it to
"You, Uncle Ben?" cried Vicky. "You live in this dismal place?
"I don't think it dismal," said Mr. Murchison. "I don't think I
should feel lonely."
Everything was speedily arranged. In a very few weeks, Mark
and Vicky were back at Willowdale. Various other friends of Mr.
Murchison's dropped in to see them. "How is he getting on?" they
asked. "Does he like it?"
"He thinks it's fine," said Mark. "You know, the old boy really
Great Possibilities 
is marvellous. Always the perfect type. He's the eccentric squire
nowadays. Have you heard about him and the fire brigade?"
"No. Let's hear it," they cried.
"Well," said Mark, "first of all he raised hell. He said the service
wasn't efficient. He wrote letters, called a meeting, went round to
all the farmers — God knows what all."
"Then he must have waved a check at 'em or something. They
elected him chairman, captain, the whole works. We were over
that way last week; they all said he drills hell out of 'em. And we
saw them charge through the village with the new engine, and
there was Uncle Ben sitting up by the driver, smiling all over his
face, with a damned great axe in his hand."
"He always was a bit fussy about the chance of fire," said the
jj^fmfjmfjfj^fmjffff^ //jjt jf_ j/pj Y TO HELL J!!jjj!!!fJll!fj!!!fJ!IJjj!!jf
LOUIS THURLOW, HAVING DECIDED TO TAKE HIS OWN LIFE, FELT THAT
at least he might take his own time also. He consulted his pass-
book: there was a little over a hundred pounds left. "Very well,"
said he. "I'll get out of this flat, which stinks, and spend a really
delightful week at Mutton's. I'll taste all the little pleasures just
once more, to say good-bye to them."
He engaged his suite at Mutton's, where he kept the page-boys
on the run. At one moment they had to rush round into Piccadilly
to buy him chrysanthemums, in which to smell the oncoming
autumn, which he would never see. Next they were sent to Soho
to get him some French cigarettes, to put him in mind of a certain
charming hotel which overlooked the Seine. He had also a little
Manet sent round by the Neuilly Galleries — "To try living with,"
he said, with the most whimsical smile. You may be sure he ate
and drank the very best: just a bite of this and a glass of that, he
had so many farewells to take.
On the last night of all he telephoned Celia, whose voice he felt
inclined to hear once more. He did not speak, of course, though he
thought of saying, "You should really not keep on repeating
'Hallo,' but say 'Good-bye.' " However, she had said that already,
and he had been taught never to sacrifice good taste to a bad mot.
He hung up the receiver, and opened the drawer in which he
had stored his various purchases of veronal tablets.
"It seems a great deal to get down," he thought. "Everything
is relative. I prided myself on not being one of those panic-
stricken, crack-brained suicides who rush to burn out their guts
with gulps of disinfectant; now it seems scarcely less civilized to
end this pleasant week with twenty hard swallows and twenty
sips of water. Still, life is like that. I'll take it easy."
Accordingly he arranged his pillows very comfortably, con-
gratulated himself on his pyjamas, and propped up a photograph
against his bedside clock. "I have no appetite," he said. "I force
Half -Way to Hell 
myself to eat as a duty to my friends. There is no bore like a
despairing lover." And with that he began to toy with this last,
light, plain little meal.
The tablets were not long in taking effect. Our hero closed his
eyes. He put on a smile such as a man of taste would wish to wear
when found in the morning. He shut off that engine which drives
us from one moment to the next, and prepared to glide into the
valley of the shadow.
The glide was a long one. He anticipated no landing, and was
the more surprised to learn that there is no such thing as nothing,
while there is quite definitely such a thing as being dead in the
most comfortable bedroom in all Mutton's Hotel.
"Here I am/' he said. "Dead! In Mutton's Hotel!"
The idea was novel enough to make him get out of bed at once.
He noticed that his corpse remained there, and was glad to ob-
serve that the smile was still in place, and looked extremely well.
He strolled across to the mirror to see if his present face was
capable of an equally subtle expression, but when he came to
look in he saw nothing at all. Nevertheless he obviously had arms
and legs, and he felt that he could still do his old trick with his
eyebrows, from which he assumed that he was much the same,
"I am just invisible," he said, "and in that there are certain
He decided to go out at once, in order to have a bit of fun. He
went down the stairs, followed a departing guest through the
revolving door, and in two minutes he was walking down Cork
Street. It appeared to be just after midnight; there was a bobby,
a taxi or two, and a few ladies, none of whom took any notice of
him at all.
He had not gone twenty yards, however, and was, as a matter
of fact, just passing his tailor's, when a lean dark figure detached
itself from the shadows which hung about the railings in front of
the shop, and coming up close behind his elbow, said, "Damn and
blast it, man, you have been a time!"
Louis was a little put out at finding himself not so invisible as
he had thought. Still, he glanced at the stranger and saw that his
eyes were as luminous as a cat's eyes, from which it was plain that
he could see better than most.
 Half -Way to Hell
"Do you mean," said Louis, "that I've been keeping you
"I've been hanging about here, freezing, for a week," said the
Now it was only September, and the nights, though nippy, were
not as cold as all that. Louis put two and two together. "Is it
possible," said he, "that you have been waiting to — to take me in
charge, so to speak, on account of my recent suicide?"
"I have," said the fiend. "You'll come quietly, I suppose."
"My dear fellow," said Louis, "I know you have your duty to
do, and in any case I'm not the sort of person to make a scene in
the street. I'm sorry if I've kept you hanging about in the cold,
but the truth is I had no idea of your existence, so I hope there'll
be no ill-feeling."
"I've got an ill-feeling all right," replied the other, grumpily. "I
swear I've got the 'flu, curse it!" And with that he sneezed miser-
ably. "The worst of it is," he added, "we've got such a human of
a way to go. I shall be fit for nothing for weeks."
"Really, I can't bear to hear you sneeze like that," cried our
hero. "Have you ever tried the Quetch at the Rat Trap Club?"
"What's Quetch?" asked the other, between sneezes.
"It tastes like liquid fire," replied Louis. "I believe it's made
from plum stones, though why I can't tell you. Possibly to cure
"Liquid fire, eh?" observed the stranger, his eyes glowing like
"Come and try it," said Louis.
"I don't know," said the other. "We're a week late through your
fault. I don't see why we shouldn't be half an hour later through
mine. I suppose there'll be trouble if they hear of it."
Louis assured him that this last half-hour must be put down to
his account also. "You caught the cold through my delay," said
he. "Therefore I am responsible for the time you take to cure it."
The fiend obviously believed this, which caused our hero to reflect
that he must be a very simple fiend.
They set out for the Rat Trap Club. Passing through Piccadilly
Circus, the fiend indicated the Underground, saying, "That's
where I'm going to take you when we've had this drop of what-
Half -Way to Hell 
"That does not take you to Hell," said Louis, "but only to
Barons Court. The mistake is pardonable."
"No mistake," replied the fiend. "Let's cross the road this way,
and I'll show you what I mean."
They went in, and travelled down the escalator, chatting very
affably. It was fairly crowded with more ordinary passengers, but
our friends attracted no attention whatever. There are a great
many fiendish-looking individuals travelling on this subway, and
others of a corpsy appearance. Besides, now I come to think of it,
they were invisible.
When they had reached the ordinary lowest level, where the
trains run, "Come," said the fiend, and drew Louis into a passage
he had never before noticed, up which there came a huger clank-
ing and a sultrier blast. He saw a notice saying, "Follow the wrong
light." A few paces brought them to the top of an escalator such
as our hero had never dreamed of: it swooped down from under
their feet with a roar and a groan, down into the close innards of
the earth. Its passage was lit by the usual lamps. Louis, whose
sight seemed to have become extremely keen, saw that at some
far point on its vast curve, the black shades changed to blue, and
the lamps gave place to stars. However, it seemed to go on the
devil of a long way past that.
For the rest, it was made just like all other escalators: its sides
were adorned with pictorial advertisements of temptations, some
of which Louis thought might be very interesting. He could have
stepped on, for there was no barrier or ticket collector, but, as we
have seen, he liked to take his time.
Now and then, he and his companion were jostled by other
fiends and their charges. I am afraid some of the latter were be-
having in rather an undignified manner, and had to be marched
along in a sort of policeman's grip. The effect was degrading.
Louis was interested to see, however, how tremendously the esca-
lator accelerated once it felt the weight of these infernal police-
men and their victims. It was a tremendous spectacle to see this
narrow moving chain, dimly lit, roaring, rushing down, looping
the distance between Earth and Hell, which is greater than one
"What did you do before this sort of thing was invented?"
 Half -Way to Hell
"We had to leap down, like chamois, from star to star," replied
"Splendid!" said Louis. "Now let's go and have that drink."
The fiend consenting, they went off to the Rat Trap, and, slip-
ping into a cubby-hole behind the bar, they helped themselves
to a full bottle of the famous Quetch. The fiend disdained a glass,
and put the bottle to his lips, whereupon Louis saw, to his great
amazement, this powerful form of brandy was actually brought
to the boil. The fiend appeared to like it; when the liquid was
gone he sucked away at the bottle, the melting sides of which
collapsed like the skin of a gooseberry sucked at by a child. When
he had drawn it all into his mouth, he smiled, pursed his lips, and
blew out the glass again, this time more like a cigarette-smoker
exhaling his first puff. What's more, he didn't blow the glass into
bottle shape as formerly, but into the most delightful statuary
piece, most realistic, most amusing. "Adam and Eve," said he
laconically, placing it on the table to cool.
"Oh, very, very good!" cried Louis. "Can you do Mars and
"Oh, yes," said the fiend. Louis immediately commandeered
several more bottles of Quetch.
He called for one or two other subjects, of a nature that would
hardly interest the reader. The fiend, however, thought each more
amusing than the last, and nearly split his sides over the effect
of a hiccup on Lady Godiva. The fact is, he was getting rather
tight. Louis encouraged him, not so much for the love of art as
because he had no great desire to ride on that escalator.
At last the fiend could drink no more. He got up, jingled his
money (fiends have money — that's where it's all gone to) , puffed
out his cheeks. "Whoop!" said he, with a hiccup. "My cold's
better, I believe. If it isn't, well, then — to Hell with it! That's what
I say. Ha! Ha!"
Louis, you may be sure, told him he was a fine fellow. "Well,"
said he, as they stood on the steps of the Club, "I suppose you're
going that way; I'm going this." He made a bit of a face, pleas-
antly, raised his hat, and set off along the street, scarcely daring to
breathe till he had rounded the corner.
When he thought himself in safety, "By Jove," said he, "I'm
Half-Way to Hell 
well rid of that fellow. Here I am, dead, invisible, and the night is
yet young. Shall I go and see what Celia's doing?"
Before he could embark on this rash project, he felt a very hard
hand on his arm, looked round, and saw his custodian.
"Oh, there you are," said he. "I wondered where the devil you'd
"Drunk as a lord," said the fiend, with a smile. "Got to see each
other home, eh?"
There was nothing for it: they set out for Piccadilly Circus.
The fiend kept his hand on Louis's wrist, quite inoffensively of
course, only Louis would rather it had not been there.
So they went chatting into the subway again. Just as they got
to the level of the Piccadilly line, which is where the infernal
aperture gapes for those who are privileged to see it, whom should
Louis see, in top hat, white silk scarf, and all the rest, but his
damned nasty rival, catching a late train home.
"I bet," said Louis at once, addressing the fiend, "that you are
not strong enough to carry me on your back from here to the
The fiend, with a sneer of contempt, immediately bent down.
Louis, with a desperate effort, picked hold of his rival round the
waist and dumped him on the back of the fiend, who gripped his
legs, and started off like a race-horse.
"Carry you all the way to Hell for tuppence!" cried he, in
"Done!" cried Louis, who was skipping along beside them to
enjoy the spectacle.
He had the delicious pleasure of seeing them jump on the esca-
lator, whose terrific acceleration seemed even more marked and
more admirable than before.
Louis returned to the street as happy as a king. He walked
about for a bit, and suddenly decided to look in at Mutton's Hotel
to see how his corpse was getting on.
He was rather annoyed to see, even as he stood looking at it,
that the effective smile, over which he had taken so much trouble,
was slipping. In fact, it was beginning to look altogether idiotic.
Without giving the matter a thought, he instinctively nipped
inside to hook it back into place. In doing so he twitched his nose,
 Half -Way to Hell
found it necessary to sneeze, opened his eyes, and, in a word,
found himself quite alive and no longer kicking, in that excellent
bedroom of Mutton's Hotel.
"Well, upon my word!" said he, glancing at the bedside table.
"Is it possible I dropped off to sleep after taking only two of
those tablets? There is really something to be said for taking one's
time. It must have been just a vivid dream."
In short, he was glad to be alive, and still gladder a day or two
afterwards, when some news came through that made it seem
that it was not a dream after all. Louis's rival was announced
as missing, having last been seen by two friends at the entrance
of Piccadilly Circus station shortly after midnight on Tuesday.
"Who'd have thought it?" said Louis. "Anyway, I suppose I
had better go and see Celia."
However, he had learned the advantage of taking his time, and
before he went he thought better of it, and, in fact, did not go at
all, but went to Paris for the autumn, which shows that girls
shouldn't play fast and loose with the affections of small men with
blue eyes, or they may find themselves left in the lurch.
^POSSESSION OF ANGELA BRADSHAW^
THERE WAS A YOUNG WOMAN, THE DAUGHTER OF A RETIRED COLONEL,
resident in one of London's most select suburbs, and engaged to be
married to Mr. Angus Fairfax, a solicitor who made more money
every year. The name of this young woman was Angela Bradshaw;
she wore a green suede cardigan, and had an Aberdeen terrier, and
when open-toed shoes were in fashion, she wore open-toed shoes.
Angus Fairfax was as ordinary as herself, and pleasant and ordi-
nary were all the circumstances of their days.
Nevertheless, one day in September this young woman devel-
oped symptoms of a most distressing malady. She put a match to
the curtains of the drawing-room, and kicked, bit, and swore like
a trooper when restrained.
Everyone thought she had lost her reason, and no one was more
distressed than her fiance. A celebrated alienist was called in; he
found her in a collected frame of mind. He made a number of little
tests, such as are usual in these examinations, and could find none
of the usual symptoms of dementia.
When he had done, however, she burst into a peal of coarse
laughter, and, calling him a damned old fool, she reminded him of
one or two points he had overlooked. Now these points were ex-
tremely abstruse ones, and most unlikely to be known to a young
girl who had never studied psychoanalysis, or life, or anything of
The alienist was greatly shocked and surprised, but he was
forced to admit that while such knowledge was most abnormal,
and while the term she had applied to him was indicative of the
extreme of folly, he did not feel that she could be certified on these
"But cannot she be certified for setting fire to my curtains?"
asked her mother.
"Not unless I find symptoms of insanity," said the specialist.
"You can, of course, charge her with arson."
Possession of Angela Bradshaw 
"What? And have her go to prison?" cried her mother. "Think
of the disgrace!"
"I could undertake her defence, free of charge, and doubtless get
her off with a caution," said Mr. Fairfax.
"There would still be the newspapers," said the Colonel, shaking
his head. "At the same time, it seems extraordinary that nothing
can be done about it." Saying this, he gave the eminent alienist his
check and a look. The alienist shrugged his shoulders'and departed.
Angela immediately put her feet on the table (her legs were ex-
tremely well turned) and recited a string of doggerel verses, cele-
brating the occasion in great detail, and casting scorn on her par-
ents and her fiance. These verses were very scurrilous, or I would
reproduce them here.
During the next few days, she played some other tricks, all of
them troublesome and undignified; above all, she rhymed away
like the principal boy in a panto. A whole string of doctors was
called in: they all said her misbehavior was not due to insanity.
Her parents then tried a few quacks, who, powerless to certify,
were also impotent to cure. In the end they went to a seedy
Madame who claimed to see into the soul. "The whole thing is per-
fectly clear," said this unprepossessing old woman. "Your daugh-
ter is possessed of a devil. Two guineas."
They asked her to exorcise the intrusive fiend, but that was ten,
so they said they would think the matter over, and took Angela
home in a taxi.
On the way, she said to them with a smile, "If you had had the
decency to ask me, I could have told you that was the trouble, all
When they had finished rating her for allowing them to go to so
much expense unnecessarily, they asked her how she knew.
"In the simplest way," she said. "I see him very frequently."
"When?" cried the Colonel.
"Where?" cried her mother.
"What is he like?" cried her fiance.
"He is young and not at all bad-looking," replied Angela, "and
he talks most amusingly. He generally appears to me when I am
alone. I am seldom alone but in my bedroom, and it is there that I
see him, between eleven at night and seven in the morning."
"What does he say?" cried her father, grasping his malacca.
[1S6] Possession of Angela Bradshaw
"Is he black?" cried her mother.
"What does he — ? How do you know it is not a she-devil?" cried
"He expresses himself rather coarsely, but I believe sincerely,"
replied Angela. "I sometimes find the things he says quite beauti-
ful. He is not black. He is not a she-devil."
"But how does he appear?" asked her mother.
"Frequently I find him beside me, when I have got into bed,"
said Angela, with the greatest composure in the world.
"I have always asked you to let me order a wider bed for that
room," observed her mother to the Colonel.
"This fiend must be exorcised at once," said Angus Fairfax, "for
there is no bed wide enough to sleep three, once we are married."
"I'm not sure that he wants to be exorcised," said Angela. "In
any case, I must ask him first."
"Colonel Bradshaw," said Angus Fairfax, "I hope you realize
my position. In face of these revelations, and of all that lies behind
them, I cannot but withdraw from the engagement."
"A good riddance, / say," observed the fiend, now speaking for
the first time.
"Be quiet, dear," said Angela.
Mr. Fairfax rapped on the glass, stopped the taxi, and got out.
"In face of what we have just heard," said he, "no action for
breach of promise can possibly lie."
"It is not the custom of the Bradshaws to bring actions for
breach of promise," said the Colonel. "No more shall we sue you
for your share of the taxi-fare."
The fiend, while Mr. Fairfax hastily fumbled for his money, re-
cited a valedictory quatrain, rhyming most obscenely upon his
To resume our tale: they got home. The Colonel immediately
telephoned for the old Madame to come, regardless of cost.
"I'll have this fiend out before eleven tonight, anyway, Miss,"
said he to his daughter, who laughed.
The old Madame turned up, bearing a great box of powders,
herbs, bones, symbols, and heaven knows what else. She had the
drawing-room darkened, and the wireless disconnected from its
aerial, just in case, and, as an afterthought, had the Colonel go out
with a sardine to tempt a cat in from the street." They often like to
go into a cat," she said. "I don't know why."
Possession of Angela Bradshaw 
Then, Angela being seated in the middle of the room, and the
ornamental paper being taken out of the fireplace, because fiends
very frequently like to make an exit by way of the chimney, the
old woman lit a joss-stick or two, and began to mumble away for
When she had said all that was required, she set fire to a saucer-
ful of Bengal Light. "Come forth, Asmodeus!" she cried.
"Wrong," said the fiend, with a chuckle.
"Bother I" cried the old woman in dismay, for the flare had
shown the cat eating one of the bones she had brought. "That was
a bone of St. Eulalia, which was worse than Keating's Powder to
devils, and cost me twenty guineas,'' she said. "No devil will go
into that cat now, and the bone must go into the bill, and the
Colonel must go into the street to fetch a fresh cat."
When everything was resettled, she began again, and, lighting
a new saucerful, "Come forth, Beelzebub!" she demanded.
"Wrong again," said the fiend, with a louder chuckle than be-
"They'll never guess, darling," said Angela.
The old beldam went on, at a prodigious expense of the Bengal
Light, which was of a special kind. She called on Belial, Belphegor,
Mahound, Radamanth, Minos, all the fiends ever heard of, and all
she brought forth was taunts and laughter.
"Then who the devil are you?" cried the Colonel at last.
"William Wakefield Wall," replied the fiend.
"You might have asked that at the beginning," said Angela
"And who, if you please, is William Wakefield Wall?" inquired
her mother, with dignity. "At least, dear, he is not one of those
foreign fiends," she added to the Colonel.
"He is some charlatan," said the old woman. "I have never
heard of him."
"Very few Philistines have," rejoined the fiend, with great equa-
nimity. "However, if there is, by any odd chance, anyone in this
suburb who is familiar with the latest developments of modern
poetry, I advise you to make your inquiries there."
"Do you mean to say you're a poet?" cried the Colonel.
"I am not a Poona jingler," replied the other, "if that is what
you mean by the term. Nor do I describe in saccharine doggerel
such scenes as are often reproduced on colored calendars. If, how-
[1S8] Possession of Angela Bradshaw
ever, by the word 'poetry* you imply a certain precision, intensity,
and clarity of "
"He is a poet, Father," said Angela, "and a very good one. He
had a poem in a magazine printed in Paris. Didn't you, Will?"
"If the rascal is a poet," cried the Colonel, "bring in a bottle of
whisky. That'll get him out, if I know the breed."
"A typical army idea!" replied the poet. "Perhaps the only one.
No, Colonel, you need not bring whisky here, unless you need some
yourself, and you may send away that old woman, at whom I do
nothing but laugh. I shall come out on my own terms, or not at all."
"And your terms are — ?" said the Colonel.
"Permission to marry your daughter," said the poet. "And the
settlement upon her of a sum commensurate with the honor which
my profession will bestow upon the family."
"And if I refuse?" cried the outraged father.
"I am very comfortable where I am," replied William Wall.
"Angela can eat enough for two, and we are both as happy as any-
thing. Aren't we, Angela?"
"Yes, dear," said Angela. "Oh, don't!"
"We shall continue to have our bit of fun, of course," added the
"My dear," said the Colonel to his wife, "I think we had better
sleep on this."
"I think it must be settled before eleven, my dear," said Mrs
They could see no way out of it, so they had to come to an agree
ment. The poet at once emerged, and proved to be quite a present
able young man, though a little free in his mode of speech, and he
was able to satisfy them that he came of an estimable family.
He explained that he had first seen Angela in the foyer of a
theatre, during the entr'acte, and, gazing into her eyes (for he was
much attracted) , he had been amazed and delighted to find him-
self enter into possession of her. He was forced to reply in the
affirmative to a certain question of Mrs. Bradshaw's: however,
young people have their own standards in these days. They were
married at once, and, as he soon took to writing novels, the finan-
cial side worked out very satisfactorily, and they spent all their
winters on the Riviera.
»tf? ? tmtm»tm?tmr?f!!! THE RIGHT SIDE mmmmmm
A YOUNG MAN, WHO WAS LOOKING EXTREMELY PALE, WALKED TO
the middle of Westminster Bridge and clambered onto the para-
pet. A swarthy gentleman, some years his senior, in evening dress,
with dark red carnation, Inverness cape, monocle, and short im-
perial, appeared as if from nowhere, and had him by the ankle.
"Let me go, damn you I" muttered the would-be suicide, with a
tug and a kick.
"Get down, and walk beside me," said the stranger, "or that
policeman, who has already taken a step or two in our direction,
will most certainly run you in. Let us pretend to be two friends,
one of whom wished for a thrill, while the other was anxious that
he should not tumble over."
The young man, who was so eager to be in the Thames, had a
great aversion to being in prison. Accordingly he fell into step with
the stranger, and, smiling (for now they were just passing the
bobby) , "Damn and blast you!" he said. "Why can't you mind
your own silly business?"
"But, my dear Philip Westwick," replied the other, "I regard
you as very much my business."
"Who may you be?" cried the young man impatiently. "I don't
know you. How did you get hold of my name?"
"It came into my mind," said his companion, "just half an hour
ago, when first you formed your rash resolution."
"I don't know how that can be," said Philip. "Nor do I care."
"You lovers," said his companion, "are surprised by nothing,
except first that your mistresses should fancy you, and next, that
they should fancy someone else."
"How do you know," cried our poor Philip, "that it was over
that sort of thing?"
"I know that, and much more, equally ridiculous," replied the
other. "What would you say if I reminded you that no less than a
month ago, when you considered yourself in heaven, and were, in
The Right Side 
point of fact, in your Millicent's arms, you discerned something of
the essence of ennui in the nape of her neck, and actually wished
her transformed into the little brunette who serves in a tea-shop in
Bond Street? And now you are on the brink of suicide because
your Millicent has left you, though the little brunette is, for all you
know, in Bond Street still. What do you say to that?"
"You seem to be unaware," said Philip, "that what a man wishes
when he is in his girl's arms, and what he wishes when someone else
is probably there, are two very different things. Otherwise, I ad-
mit your knowledge is devilish uncanny."
"That is only natural," replied the other with a complacent
smile, from which Philip immediately realized that he was in the
company of none other than the Devil himself.
"What are you up to?" he demanded, drawing back a little.
The Devil, with a look of great benevolence, offered him a ciga-
"I suppose it's not doped?" inquired Philip, sniffing at it sus-
"Oh, cornel" said the Devil with a sneer. "Do you think I need
resort to such measures as that, to overcome you? I have reason
on my side."
"You have a reputation for reasoning to some effect," said
Philip. "I have very little desire to be eternally damned."
"What did you expect, then," said the Devil, "when you contem-
"I see nothing wrong in that," said our hero.
"Nor does a puppy that destroys his master's slipper," retorted
the Devil. "However, he is punished for it."
"I can't believe it," said Philip obstinately.
"Come with me, then," said the Devil, and took him to a Fun
Fair in the neighborhood of the Tottenham Court Road. Here a
number of the ugliest wretches on earth were amusing themselves
with gambling games; others were peering into stereoscopes which
showed scenes of Parisian night life. The rest of them were picking
pockets, making overtures to certain female habituees of the
place, swearing, and indulging in all manner of filthy conversation.
The Devil looked on all these much as one who has been walking
among the poppies and the wild cornflowers of the fields looks
upon the cultivated plants in the garden about his back-door. The
 The Right Side
commissionaire touched his cap much as gardeners do; the Devil
acknowledged the salute and, taking out a latch-key, led Philip to
a little door in the wall which, being opened, discovered a lift.
They got in, and descended for several minutes at an incredible
"My dear Devil," said Philip, puffing at his cigarette, which
was, in fact, doped, and gave him the impression of being a man of
affairs, "my dear Devil, if we go on at this rate, we shall soon be in
Nothing could have been more true. The lift stopped, they got
out: they were in a vast hall which resembled nothing so much as
the foyer of some gargantuan theater or picture palace. There were
two or three box offices, in front of which the prices of admission
were displayed: Stalls — gluttony; Private Boxes — lechery; Dress
Circle — vanity; Gallery — sloth; and so forth. There was also a bar,
at which one or two uniformed fiends were chatting with the bar-
maids, among whom our friend was astonished to see the little
brunette from Bond Street.
Now and then a door opened upon the vast auditorium, and it
was apparent that the play or talkie in progress was a lively one.
"There's a dance lounge through here," said the Devil, "to which
I particularly wanted to take you."
A door was opened for them: they found themselves in a reason-
ably large apartment got up in the grotto style, with ferns and
imitation rock-work, and a damp and chilly air. A band was play-
ing a travesty of Scarlatti. Several people were dancing rather list-
lessly. Philip observed that many of them were disgustingly fat.
The Devil led him up to a slim and pale girl, murmured a few
words, and Philip, seeing nothing else to do, bowed, offered her his
arm, and they began to circle the room.
She danced very languidly, and kept her heavy lids drooped low
over her eyes. Philip uttered one or two trifling remarks. "Do you
come here often?" he said. She smiled faintly, but did not reply.
He was a little piqued at her remaining so listless (besides, he
had smoked one of the Devil's cigarettes) . "How very cold your
hand is!" he said, giving it a slight squeeze. It certainly was. He
maneuvered this unresponsive partner into a corner, where he
clutched her waist rather more tightly than was necessary for
dancing. He felt a chilly moisture penetrate the sleeve of his jacket,
The Right Side [14S]
and a faint but unmistakable smell of river-mud become percep-
tible. He looked at her closely, and observed something extremely
pearly about her eyes.
"I did not catch your name," said Philip.
His partner scarcely moved her colorless lips. "Ophelia," she
"Excuse me," said Philip.
You may depend he lost no time in rejoining the Devil.
"Now," said that worthy, "are you still unable to believe that
those who drown themselves are eternally damned?"
Philip was forced to admit the point.
"You have no idea how bored that poor girl is," said the Devil
compassionately. "And she has only been here a few hundred
years. What is that, in comparison to Eternity?"
"Very little. Very little, indeed," said Philip.
"You see what sort of partners she gets," continued the arch-
fiend. "During every dance they reveal to her, and she to them,
some little unpleasantness of the sort that so disquieted you."
"But why should they be in a dance lounge?" asked Philip.
"Why not?" said the Devil with a shrug. "Have another ciga-
He then proposed that they should adjourn to his office, to talk
"Now, my dear Westwick," said he, when they were comfort-
ably ensconced in armchairs, "what shall our little arrangement
be? I can, of course, annihilate all that has occurred. In that case
you will find yourself back on the parapet, in the very act of
jumping, just as you were when I caught you by the ankle. Shortly
afterwards you will arrive in the little dance lounge you saw:
whether fat or thin depends upon the caprice of the waters."
"It is night," said Philip. "The river flows at four miles an hour.
I should probably get out to sea unobserved. Yes, I should almost
certainly be one of the fat ones. They appeared to me remarkably
deficient in it or S.A., if those terms are familiar to you."
"I have heard of them," said the Devil, with a smile. "Have a
"No, thanks," said Philip. "What alternative do you suggest?"
"Here is our standard contract," said the Devil. "Do have a
cigar. You see- — unlimited wealth, fifty years, Helen of Troy —
 The Right Side
well, that's obsolete. Say Miss ," and he mentioned the name
of a delightful film-star.
"Of course," said Philip, "there's this little clause about posses-
sion of my soul. Is that essential?"
"Well, it's the usual thing," said the Devil. "Better let it stand.
This is where you sign."
"Well, I don't know," said Philip. "I don't think I'll sign."
"What?" cried the Devil.
Our hero pursed his lips.
"I don't want to influence you, my dear Westwick," said the
Devil, "but have you considered the difference between coming
in tomorrow as a drowned suicide, and coming in — fifty glorious
years hence, mind — as a member of the staff? Those were mem-
bers of the staff you saw talking to the little brunette at the bar.
"All the same," said Philip, "I don't think I'll sign. Many
"All right," said the Devil. "Back you go, then!"
Philip was aware of a rushing sensation: he seemed to be shoot-
ing upwards like a rocket. However, he kept his presence of mind,
kept his weight on his heels, and, when he got to the parapet,
jumped down, but on the right side.
J!^» ANOTHER AMERICAN TRAGEDY JRSB?
A YOUNG MAN ENTERED THE OFFICE OF A PROMINENT DENTIST, AND
seated himself in the chair. He scornfully waved aside the little
probe and mirror with which the dentist smilingly approached
him. "Rip 'em all out," he said.
"But," said the dentist, "your teeth seem perfectly good."
"So," said the young man, "is my money."
The dentist hesitated a little. "It would hardly be ethical," said
he, "to take out teeth which are sound — unless there is a very
good reason for it."
The young man, who had begun to smile at the word "ethical,"
here extended his smile into a cavernous gape, which laid bare the
hindermost of his ivories. At the same time he twitched out a
small roll of bills from his vest pocket, and held them noticeably
in his hand.
The dentist utterly ignored these bills. "If you want those excel-
lent teeth out," said he, "you must certainly be mad. Now I have
a little theory: mental derangement is caused by dental derange-
ment. It is a sign of something wrong way up behind the roots of
the teeth, especially those of the upper row. Viewed from that
"Cut it, and pull them, out," said the young man, impatient
of these professional niceties.
The dentist shrugged and obeyed. As if in fear that the young
man might become altogether too sane at the end of the operation,
he humorously tweaked away the roll of bills with a thirty-third
frisk of his forceps.
The young man made no comment, but only called for a mir-
ror, in which he surveyed his numb and fallen chops with every
appearance of satisfaction. He asked when his temporary denture
would be ready, made the appointment, and went his way.
"Dear me!" thought the dentist. "Perhaps the trouble was not
in his teeth after all. Certainly he is still as crazy as a coot."
Another American Tragedy 
Here the dentist made a big mistake. The young man was per-
fectly sane, and knew very well what he was about. It happened
that he had spent all his money, in some years of the vilest dissipa-
tion, but he had a very far-reaching and water-tight plan for
getting some more.
He accordingly returned to the dentist on the appointed day,
and was equipped with his temporary grinders, which he sucked
at and gnashed in the most ordinary fashion. He paid for them
with almost his last dollar, went out, and got into his racy-looking
roadster, and drove out of town as if pursued by the finance com-
pany, as he certainly would have been had they caught sight of
He drove till nightfall, and resumed his journey next day. Late
in the afternoon he arrived in that part of the country where old
and miserly uncles live in remote, dilapidated farm-houses. Our
young man was more or less fortunate in possessing one of the
oldest and richest of these uncles, whose house was the remotest
and most dilapidated of all.
Arriving at this secluded dwelling, our hero drew up before a
porch upon which no money had been squandered for years. "So
much the more in the old sock," reflected the nephew, as he
knocked upon the door.
He was a little disconcerted to hear the tap of high heels within,
instead of the shuffle of a deaf and surly retainer, and his jaw
dropped when the door was opened by a plump and squarish
blonde, a baby of some thirty years and about a hundred and fifty
pounds. Her mouth was as wide and as red as a slice of water-
melon, she had well-darkened lashes and brows, and an abundance
of phony gold hair flowing girlishly down over her shoulders. Our
friend was to some extent reassured when he realized that she was
dressed in what might be called a nurse's uniform, but the fact
that her garters were bright scarlet, and adorned with enormous
bows, caused him to wonder if his dear uncle was getting the very
best of professional care.
Nevertheless it is important to get on the right side of the nurse,
especially when she stands solidly in the doorway. Our hero re-
moved his hat, and put on so soapy a smile that his false teeth
nearly dropped out of his head. "I have driven all the way from
the big city," said he, "to see my poor, dear, bed-ridden old uncle
 Another American Tragedy
—God bless him! I did not expect to see so charming a
The nurse, not budging an inch, responded with a surly and
"I fear he must be sinking," continued the nephew. "In fact, I
had an intuition, a sort of telepathic S.O.S., telling me to hasten
out here before it was too late. Let me rush to his bedside."
The nurse still hesitated, but at that moment a peculiar sound,
resembling the croaking of giant bull-frogs, arose in the dim
depths of the house. This was the good old uncle himself, vocifer-
ating toothlessly for an immediate sight of his nephew, whose
expressions of affection and concern had been audible in every
corner of the dwelling. The old boy knew very well that his rela-
tive was after money, and he was eager for the pleasure of turning
The nurse somewhat grudgingly stepped aside. Our hero, with
a well-rehearsed whinny of delight, scuttled into the bedroom.
Nothing is more affecting than the greetings of near relatives
after a long separation, especially when they are as fond of each
other as these two. "My dear Uncle!" cried the nephew. "What
a pleasure it is to see you again! But why does your hand tremble
so? Why are your eyes so sunken? Why are you so thin and pale?"
"If it comes to that," said his uncle, "you are not too stout and
rosy yourself. Yes, you are very worn and emaciated, my boy.
Your hair is thin and grey; you have lines, bags, and creases all
over your face. If it were not for your handsome white teeth, I
believe you would look every bit as old as I do."
"That," said the nephew, "is the effect of ceaseless toil and moil.
It is a hard struggle, Uncle, to make good in these days, especially
without any capital."
"So you are making good?" said the old man. "Do you not drink
"No, Uncle, I never drink now," replied the nephew.
"Well, that's tough," said his uncle, producing a giant flask from
under his pillow. "In that case I can't ask you to join me." With
that, he took a mighty swig, and, wiping his lips, he continued, "I
have, thank heaven, a good doctor. A typical tough, bluff, hard-
hitting, straight-shooting country doc of the old school. We call
him the horse 'n' buggy doc. He recommends me this as medicine."
Another American Tragedy 
"Perhaps that is why your hand trembles so," said his nephew.
"You own is none too steady," rejoined his uncle. "Evidently
you work too hard. Tell me, Nephew, do you ever take a little
nutter with the cards?"
"Good heavens, no!" cried the nephew. "I cured myself of that
folly long ago."
"I am sorry to hear it," replied his uncle. "We might have played
a little cut-throat. The old horse 'n' buggy doc says the excitement
keeps me lively. We often play together till after midnight."
"That is why your eyes are sunken so deep," said the nephew.
"I think yours are equally hollow," replied the old man. "You
should take a little rest now and then. I suppose, my dear Nephew,
you still have an occasional frolic with the girls."
"Girls!" cried the nephew, lifting up his hands. "What an odious
suggestion! It is years since I have even looked at a girl."
"Well, that's too bad," said his uncle. "The old horse J n' buggy
doc has up-to-date views. It was he who sent me Birdie." And,
turning to the nurse, who happened to be arranging his pillows, he
gave her a certain sort of caress such as is far better imagined than
"No wonder!" cried his nephew, when the nurse had gone bri-
dling and smirking from the room. "No wonder my poor Uncle,
that you are so extremely thin and pale!"
"You are equally so," replied his uncle, "and you are only half
"Well," said the nephew, trying a new tack, "perhaps your doc-
tor is right. Perhaps I had better take your treatment."
"I heartily advise it," said the old man.
"The only thing," said the nephew, "is that I can hardly work
at the same time. I suppose you would not care to give me a little
money, so that I can enjoy the benefits of the system."
"Well, no," said his uncle. "I would not. Definitely not."
"I thought as much," said his nephew. "I fear I shall have to
keep on toiling. How upset your good old horse V buggy doc
would be! Tell me one thing, however; indulge my curiosity in one
trifling respect. Is there any hope I shall come into your money?
Have you arranged it in your will?"
"Oh, come!" said his uncle. "Why bother your head with matters
of that sort?"
 Another American Tragedy
"Do tell me," pressed the nephew. "You have no idea how in-
terested I am."
"Well, if you really want to know," said his uncle, "I have left
it all to the old horse 'n' buggy doc, a true downright, straight-
living, hard-faced, crusty, soft-hearted country saw-bones of the
old school, and you cannot imagine how agreeable his treatment
is to me."
"Is that really so?" said the nephew. "I must say I expected
something of the sort. Fortunately I have made my plans against
just such a contingency. Allow me, my dear Uncle."
With that he twitched a pillow from under the old man's head,
and pressed it over his face. The old uncle gave a petulant kick or
two, but what with one thing and another there was very little life
left in him, and soon that little was gone.
The nephew, with a wary glance at the door, quickly divested
himself of his clothing, which he stowed under the bed. Next, pos-
sibly feeling a little chilly, he took the liberty of borrowing his
uncle's nightshirt. Then, stowing his uncle's shrunken body under
the bed also, he climbed into his place between the sheets. Finally
he expectorated his false teeth into a clean pocket handkerchief,
which he had brought especially for the purpose, and leaned back
upon the pillows, the very spit and image of the old man.
Soon he set up a pipe: "Birdie! Birdie!"
At his call the nurse came hurrying in. "Why, honey-boy," said
she, "where's your worthless nephew gone?"
4 'He has just slipped out for a stroll around the old place,"
croaked our hero. "Moreover, I don't think you should call him
worthless. No, I have misjudged that young man, and I want you
to send for the lawyer, so that I can do him justice in my will."
"Why, Daddy?" cried the nurse. "What's made this change in
"Change?" said the nephew hastily. "There's no change in me,
my dear, except perhaps I feel my latter end approaching. Other-
wise I am just the same." And to reasure her on this point, he gave
her a friendly little caress, exactly as his uncle had done. She
emitted an hilarious squeal and went giggling on her errand.
The nephew lay at his ease, waiting only for the arrival of the
lawyer. "I shall dictate a new will," thought he, "and sign it before
the very eyes of the lawyer, in a shaky imitation of the old man's
Another American Tragedy [ 151 ]
crabbed hand. I shall then express a desire to be left alone for a
short nap, replace my poor uncle in the bed, put on my clothes, put
back my teeth, and step out of the window, to march in at the
front door as if newly returned from my walk. What bucketfuls of
tears I shall shed, when we discover that the poor old boy has
passed peacefully away!"
Pretty soon there was a heavy footstep on the porch, and a
large and rough-hewn individual strode into the room, bearing a
sizable black bag.
"I am glad you have come," said our hero. "I am eager to make
out a new will. I wish to leave everything to my nephew."
"My dear old friend," replied the newcomer, "I fear your malady
has reached the brain. Who would have thought my old pal could
have mistaken me for the lawyer? You must let me make a brief
examination." With that, he pulled down the sheet, and began to
probe the nephew with a hard and horny finger. The nephew real-
ized too late that this was no lawyer, but the horse V buggy doc
himself, and he uttered a hollow groan.
"I feared as much," said the doctor. "There is something very
wrong somewhere in here. I must act at once if you are to recover
your reason." As he spoke, he turned the nephew over in the bed,
and whisked out a monster hypodermic from his black bag. "For-
tunately," said he, "I am always ready for emergencies."
Our hero tried to protest, but he hardly knew what to say, fear-
ing that his uncle would be discovered under the bed, and the
circumstance would tend to his prejudice. The doctor, all in a
moment, injected a pint of icy fluid into the small of his back,
which numbed his whole middle, and paralysed all his faculties,
except that of rolling the eyes, which he indulged to the point of
"I am only an old, rough, goldarn horse V buggy doc," observed
the doctor, "but I keep abreast of the times. Mental derangement
is often caused by abdominal derangement. If you will get out my
instruments, nurse, I think we shall soon find the source of the
In a moment the unfortunate nephew was laid open under his
own eyes, which he never ceased to roll. The doctor, unpacking
him like a Gladstone bag, kept up a running commentary. "Take
this," said he to the nurse, "and put it on the wash-stand. Put
 Another American Tragedy
these on the chair. Don't get them mixed up, or I shall have the
devil of a job getting them back again. It is a pity that nephew is
not back: it is more ethical to have the consent of a relative before
operating. I see nothing wrong with this pancreas, considering the
age of the patient. Put it on the chest of drawers. Hang these over
"Hold the candle a little closer," he continued. "I still have not
found the cause of his madness. Don't let the candle drip; that is
hardly hygienic. Anyway, he is certainly mad, or he would not
think of leaving his money to that scallawag of a nephew. It is as
well you let me know, my dear, instead of bothering the lawyer.
When this is all over, we must take a little trip together."
Saying this, he gave the nurse a caress, similar to that which
both uncle and nephew had bestowed on her. The sight of this
caress not only shocked our hero, but depressed him abominably,
and lowered his powers of resistance. "It is most unprofessional,"
thought he, "and, what's even worse, it smacks hatefully of con-
spiracy." This thought caused him to roll his eyes for the last time,
and next moment he was a goner.
"Dear me," said the doctor, "I fear I have lost my patient. Some-
times I quite envy the city doctor, with his well-appointed oper-
ating theater. However, their biographies usually sell very poorly,
and, after all, I did my best for the old boy, and he has remem-
bered me in his will. Had he lived, he might have altered it. What
an extraordinary trick of fate! Pass me over the various organs,
my dear, and I will put them roughly into position, for I expect
the nephew will be back very shortly, and he would hate to see
them lying around."
^mff^ffff^ff^fffJ^ft^ff7?f^ bird qp prey r^^r^Sr^i
THE HOUSE THEY CALL THE ENGINEER S HOUSE IS NOW DESERTED. THE
new man from Baton Rouge gave it up after living less than
a month in it, and built himself a two-room shack with his
own money, on the very farthest corner of the company's
The roof has caved in, and most of the windows are smashed.
Oddly enough, no birds nest in the shelter of the eaves, or take ad-
vantage of the forsaken rooms. An empty house is normally fine
harborage for rats and mice and bats, but there is no squeak, or
rustle, or scamper to disturb the quiet of this one. Only creatures
utterly foreign, utterly remote from the most distant cousinhood
to man, only the termite, the tarantula, and the scorpion indiffer-
ently make it their home.
All in a few years Edna Spalding's garden has been wiped out as
if it had never existed. The porch where she and Jack sat so hap-
pily in the evenings is rotten under its load of wind-blown twigs
and sand. A young tree has already burst up the boards outside
the living-room window, so that they fan out like the stiff fingers
of someone who is afraid. In this corner there still stands a
strongly made parrot's perch, the wood of which has been left
untouched even by the termite and the boring beetle.
The Spaldings brought a parrot with them when first they came.
It was a sort of extra wedding present, given them at the last
moment by Edna's mother. It was something from home for Edna
to take into the wilds.
The parrot was already old, and he was called Tom, and, like
other parrots, he sat on his perch, and whistled and laughed and
uttered his few remarks, which were often very appropriate. Edna
and Jack were both very fond of him, and they were overwhelm-
ingly fond of each other. They liked their house, and the country,
and Jack's colleagues, and everything in life seemed to be delight-
Bird of Prey 
One night they had just fallen asleep when they were awakened
by a tremendous squawking and fluttering outside on the porch.
"Oh, Jack!" cried Edna. "Get up! Hurry! Run! It's one of those
cats from the men's camp has got hold of poor Tom!"
Jack sprang out of bed, but caught his foot in the sheet, and
landed on his elbow on the floor. Between rubbing his elbow and
disentangling his foot, he wasted a good many seconds before he
was up again and had dashed through the living-room and out
upon the porch.
All this time, which seemed an age, the squawking and flutter-
ing increased, but as he flung open the door it ceased as suddenly
as it had begun. The whole porch was bathed in the brightest
moonlight, and at the farther end the perch was clearly visible, and
on the floor beneath it was poor old Tom parrot, gasping amid a
litter of his own feathers, and crying, "Oh! Oh! Oh!"
At any rate he was alive. Jack looked right and left for traces
of his assailant, and at once noticed the long, heavy trailers of the
vine were swinging violently, although there was not a breath of
wind. He went to the rail and looked out and around, but there
was no sign of a cat. Of course, it was not likely there would be.
Jack was more interested in the fact that the swaying vines were
spread over a length of several feet, which seemed a very great
deal of disturbance for a fleeing cat to make. Finally he looked
up, and he thought he saw a bird — a big bird, an enormous bird —
flying away: he just caught a glimpse of it as it crossed the bright-
ness of the moon.
He turned back, and picked up old Tom. The poor parrot's chaio
was broken, and his heart was pounding away like mad, and still,
like a creature hurt and shocked beyond all endurance, he cried,
"Oh! Oh! Oh!"
This was all the more odd, for it was seldom the old fellow came
out with a new phrase, and Jack would have laughed heartily, ex-
cept it sounded too pathetic. So he carefully examined the poor
bird, and finding no injury beyond the loss of a handful of feathers
from his neck, he replaced him on the perch, and turned to reas-
sure Edna, who now appeared in the doorway.
"Is he dead?" cried she.
"No," said Jack. "He's had a bit of shock, though. Something
got hold of him."
 Bird of Prey
"I'll bring him a piece of sugar," said Edna. "That's what he
loves. That'll make him feel better."
She soon brought the sugar, which Tom took in his claw, but
though usually he would nibble it up with the greatest avidity,
this time he turned his lack-lustre eye only once upon it, and gave
a short, bitter, despairing sort of laugh, and let it fall to the ground.
"Let him rest," said Jack. "He has had a bad tousling."
"It was a cat," said Edna. "It was one of those beastly blacks
that the men have at the camp."
"Maybe," said Jr.ck. "On the other hand — I don't know. I
thought I saw an enormous bird flying away."
"It couldn't be an eagle," said Edna. "There are none ever seen
"I know," said Jack. "Besides, they don't fly at night. Nor do
the buzzards. It might have been an owl, I suppose. But "
"But what?" said Edna.
"But it looked very much larger than an owl," said Jack.
"It was your fancy," said Edna. "It was one of those beastly
cats that did it."
This point was discussed very frequently during the next few
days. Everybody was consulted, and everybody had an opinion.
Jack might have been a little doubtful at first, for he had caught
only the briefest glimpse as the creature crossed the moon, but
opposition made him more certain, and the discussions sometimes
got rather heated.
"Charlie says it was all your imagination," said Edna. "He says
no owl would ever attack a parrot."
"How the devil does he know?" said Jack. "Besides, I said it was
bigger than an owl."
"He says that shows you imagine things," said Edna.
"Perhaps he would like me to think I do," said Jack. "Perhaps
you both would."
"Oh, Jack!" cried Edna. She was deeply hurt, and not without
reason, for it showed that Jack was still thinking of a ridiculous
mistake he had made, a real mistake, of the sort that young hus-
bands sometimes do make, when they come suddenly into a room
and people are startled without any real reason for it. Charlie was
young and free and easy and good-looking, and he would put his
Bird of Prey 
hand on your shoulder without even thinking about it, and no-
"I should not have said that," said Jack.
"No, indeed you shouldn't," said Edna, and she was right.
The parrot said nothing at all. All these days he had been mop-
ing and ailing, and seemed to have forgotten even how to ask for
sugar. He only groaned and moaned to himself, ruffled up his
feathers, and every now and then shook his head in the most rue-
ful, miserable, despairing way you can possibly imagine.
One day, however, when Jack came home from work, Edna
put her finger to her lips and beckoned him to the window. "Watch
Tom," she whispered.
Jack peered out. There was the old bird, lugubriously climbing
down from his perch and picking some dead stalks from the vine,
which he carried up till he gained a corner where the balustrade
ran into the wall, and added his gatherings to others that were
already there. He trod round and round, twisted his stalks in and
out, and, always with the same doleful expression, paid great at-
tention to the nice disposal of a feather or two, a piece of wool, a
fragment of cellophane. There was no doubt about it.
"There's no doubt about it," said Jack.
"He's making a nest!" cried Edna.
"He!" cried Jack. "He! I like that. The old impostor! The old
male impersonator! She's going to lay an egg. Thomasina — that's
her name from now on."
Thomasina it was. Two or three days later the matter was set-
tled beyond the shadow of a doubt. There, one morning, in the
ramshackle nest, was an egg.
"I thought she was sick because of that shaking she got," said
Jack. "She was broody, that's all."
"It's a monstrous egg," said Edna. "Poor birdie!"
"What do you expect, after God knows how many years?" said
Jack, laughing. "Some birds lay eggs nearly as big as themselves
— the kiwi or something. Still, I must admit it's a whopper."
"She doesn't look well," said Edna.
Indeed, the old parrot looked almost as sick as a parrot can be,
which is several times sicker than any other living creature. Her
eyes closed up, her head sank, and if a finger was put out to scratch
 Bird of Prey
her she turned her beak miserably away. However, she sat con-
scientiously on the prodigious egg she had laid, though every day
she seemed a little feebler than before.
"Perhaps we ought to'take the egg away," said Jack. "We could
get it blown, and keep it as a memento."
"No," said Edna. "Let her have it. It's all she's had in all these
Here Edna made a mistake, and she realized it a few mornings
later. "Jack," she called. "Do come. It's Tom — Thomasina, I
mean. I'm afraid she's going to die."
"We ought to have taken the egg away," said Jack, coming out
with his mouth full of breakfast food. "She's exhausted herself. It's
no good, anyway. It's bound to be sterile."
"Look at her!" cried Edna.
"She's done for," said Jack, and at that moment the poor old
bird keeled over and gasped her last.
"The egg killed her," said Jack, picking it up. "I said it would.
Do you want to keep it? Oh, good Lord!" He put the egg down
very quickly. "It's alive," he said.
"What?" said Edna. "What do you mean?"
"It gave me a turn," said Jack. "It's most extraordinary. It's
against nature. There's a chick inside that egg, tapping."
"Let it out," said Edna. "Break the shell."
"I was right," said Jack. "It was a bird I saw. It must have been
a stray parrot. Only it looked so big."
"I'm going to break the shell with a spoon," said Edna, running
to fetch one.
"It'll be a lucky bird," said Jack when she returned. "Born
with a silver spoon in its beak, so to speak. Be careful."
"I will," said .Edna. "Oh, I do hope it lives."
With that she gingerly cracked the shell, the tapping increased,
and soon they saw a well-developed beak tearing its way through.
In another moment the chick was born.
"Golly!" cried Jack. "What a monster!"
"It's because it's young," said Edna. "It'll grow lovely. Like its
"Maybe," said Jack. "I must be off. Put it in the nest. Feed it
pap. Keep it warm. Don't monkey with it too much. Good-bye,
Bird of Prey 
That morning Jack telephoned home two or three times to find
out how the chick was, and if it ate. He rushed home at lunch time.
In the evening everyone came round to peep at the nestling and
Charlie was there. "It ought to be fed every hour at least," said
he. "That's how it is in nature."
"He's right," said Jack. "For the first month at least, that's how
it should be."
"It looks as if I'm going to be tied down a bit," said Edna rue-
"I'll look in when I pass and relieve your solitude," said Charlie.
"I'll manage to rush home now and then in the afternoons," said
Jack, a little too thoughtfully.
Certainly the hourly feeding seemed to agree with the chick,
which grew at an almost alarming speed. It became covered
with down, feathers sprouted: in a few months it was fully grown,
and not in the least like its mother. For one thing, it was coal-
"It must be a hybrid," said Jack. "There is a black parrot; I've
seen them in zoos. They didn't look much like this, though. I've
half a mind to send a photograph of him somewhere."
"He looks so wicked," said Edna.
"He looks cunning," said Jack. "That bird knows everything,
believe me. I bet he'll talk soon."
"It gave a sort of laugh," said Edna. "I forgot to tell you."
"When?" cried Jack. "A laugh?"
"Sort of," said Edna. "But it was horrible. It made Charlie
nearly jump out of his skin."
"Charlie?" cried Jack. "You didn't say he'd been here."
"Well, you know how often he drops in," said Edna.
"Do I?" said Jack. "I hope I do. God! What was that?"
"That's what I meant," said Edna, "A sort of laugh."
"What a horrible sound!" said Jack.
"Listen, Jack," said Edna. "I wish you wouldn't be silly about
Charlie. You are, you know."
Jack looked at her. "I know I am," said he. "I know it when I
look at you. And then I think I never will be again. But somehow
it's got stuck in my mind, and the least little thing brings it on.
Maybe I'm just a bit crazy, on that one subject."
 Bird of Prey
"Well, he'll be transferred soon," said Edna. "And that'll be the
end of it."
"Where did you hear that?" said Jack.
"He told me this afternoon," said Edna. "He was on his way
Lack from getting the mail when he dropped in. That's why he
told me first. Otherwise he'd have told you first. Only he hasn't
seen you yet. Do you see?"
"Yes, I see," said Jack. "I wish I could be psychoanalysed or
Soon Charlie made his farewells, and departed for his job on the
company's other project. Edna was secretly glad to see him go:
she wanted no problems, however groundless, to exist between
herself and Jack. A few days later she felt sure that all the prob-
lems were solved for ever.
"Jack," said she when he came home in the evening.
"Yes," said he.
"Something new," said she. "Don't play with that bird. Listen
"Call him Polly," said Jack. They had named it Polly to be on
the safe side. "You don't want to call him 'that bird.' The missus
doesn't love you, Poll."
"Do you know, I don't!" said Edna, with quite startling vehe-
mence. "I don't like him at all, Jack. Let's give him away."
"What? For heaven's sake!" cried Jack. "This rare, black, spe-
cially hatched Poll? This parrot of romantic origin?" The clev-
erest Poll that ever "
"That's it," said Edna. "He's too darned clever. Jack, I hate
him. He's horrible."
"What? Has he said something you don't like?" said Jack,
laughing. "I bet he will, when he talks. But what's the news, any-
"Come inside," said Edna. "I'm not going to tell you with that
creature listening." She led the way into the bedroom. "The news
is," said she, "that I've got to be humored. And if I don't like any-
thing, it's got to be given away. It's not going to be born with a
beak because its mother was frightened by a hateful monstrosity
of a parrot."
"What?" said Jack.
Bird of Prey 
"That's what," said Edna, smiling and nodding.
"A brat?" cried Jack in delight. "A boy! Or a girl! It's bound to
be one or the other. Listen: I was afraid to tell you how much I
wanted one, Edna. Oh, boy! This is going to make everything very,
very fine. Lie down. You're delicate. Put your feet up. I'm going
to fix dinner. This is practice. Stay still. Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh,
He went out through the living-room on his way to the kitchen.
As he passed the window he caught sight of the parrot on the dark
porch outside, and he put his head through to speak to it.
"Have you heard the news?" said he. "Behold a father! You're
going to be cut right out, my bird. You're going to be given away.
Yes, sir, it's a baby."
The parrot gave a long low whistle. "You don't say so?" said he
in a husky voice, a voice of apprehension, a quite astonishing imi-
tation of Charlie's voice. "What about Jack?"
"What's that?" said Jack, startled.
"He'll think it's his," whispered the parrot in Edna's voice. "He's
fool enough for anything. Kiss me, darling. Phew-w-w! You don't
say so? What about Jack? He'll think it's his, he's fool enough for
anything. Kiss me, darling. Phew-w-w!"
Jack went out into the kitchen, and sat down with his head in
his hands for several minutes.
"Hurry up!" cried Edna from the bedroom. "Hurry up —
"I'm coming," said Jack.
He went to his desk, and took out the revolver. Then he went
into the bedroom.
The parrot laughed. Then, lifting its claw, it took the chain in
its beak, and bit through it as if it were paper.
Jack came out, holding the gun, his hand over his eyes. "Fool
enough for anything!" said the parrot, and laughed.
Jack turned the gun on himself. As he did so, in the infinitesimal
interval between the beginning and the end of the movement of
his finger on the trigger, he saw the bird grow, spread its dark
wings, and its eyes flamed, and it changed, and it launched itself
The gun went off. Jack dropped to the floor. The parrot, or
 Bird of Prey
whatever it was, sailing down, seized what came out of his ruined
mouth, and wheeled back through the window, and was soon far
away, visible for a moment only as it swept on broader wings past
the new-risen moon.
'«!» THUS I REFUTE BEELZY T&H&H&
THERE GOES THE TEA BELL, SAID MRS. CARTER. I HOPE SIMON
They looked out from the window of the drawing-room. The
long garden, agreeably neglected, ended in a waste plot. Here a
little summer-house was passing close by beauty on its way to
complete decay. This was Simon's retreat: it was almost com-
pletely screened by the tangled branches of the apple tree and
the pear tree, planted too close together, as they always are in
suburban gardens. They caught a glimpse of him now and then,
as he strutted up and down, mouthing and gesticulating, per-
forming all the solemn mumbo-jumbo of small boys who spend
long afternoons at the forgotten ends of long gardens.
"There he is, bless him," said Betty.
"Playing his game," said Mrs. Carter. "He won't play with
the other children any more. And if I go down there — the tem-
per! And comes in tired out."
"He doesn't have his sleep in the afternoons?" asked Betty.
"You know what Big Simon's ideas are," said Mrs. Carter.
" 'Let him choose for himself,' he says. That's what he chooses,
and he comes in as white as a sheet."
"Look. He's heard the bell," said Betty. The expression was
justified, though the bell had ceased ringing a full minute ago.
Small Simon stopped in his parade exactly as if its tinny dingle
had at that moment reached his ear. They watched him perform
certain ritual sweeps and scratchings with his little stick, and
come lagging over the hot and flaggy grass towards the house.
Mrs. Carter led the way down to the play-room, or garden-
room, which was also the tea-room for hot days. It had been the
huge scullery of this tall Georgian house. Now the walls were
cream-washed, there was coarse blue net in the windows, canvas-
covered armchairs on the stone floor, and a reproduction of Van
Gogh's Sunflowers over the mantelpiece.
Small Simon came drifting, and accorded Betty a perfunctory
Thus I Refute Beelzy 
greeting. His face was an almost perfect triangle, pointed at the
chin, and he was paler than he should have been. "The little
elf-child!" cried Betty.
Simon looked at her. "No," said he.
At that moment the door opened, and Mr. Carter came in,
rubbing his hands. He was a dentist, and washed them before
and after everything he did. "You!" said his wife. "Home al-
"Not unwelcome, I hope," said Mr. Carter, nodding to Betty.
"Two people cancelled their appointments: I decided to come
home. I said, I hope I am not unwelcome."
"Silly!" said his wife. "Of course not."
"Small Simon seems doubtful," continued Mr. Carter. "Small
Simon, are you sorry to see me at tea with you?"
"No, Big Simon."
"That's right. Big Simon and Small Simon. That sounds more
like friends, doesn't it? At one time little boys had to call their
father 'sir.' If they forgot — a good spanking. On the bottom,
Small Simon! On the bottom!" said Mr. Carter, washing his
hands once more with his invisible soap and water.
The little boy turned crimson with shame or rage.
"But now, you see," said Betty, to help, "you can call your
father whatever you like."
"And what," asked Mr. Carter, "has Small Simon been doing
this afternoon? While Big Simon has been at work."
"Nothing," muttered his son.
"Then you have been bored," said Mr. Carter. "Learn from
experience, Small Simon. Tomorrow, do something amusing, and
you will not be bored. I want him to learn from experience,
Betty. That is my way, the new way."
"I have learned," said the boy, speaking like an old, tired man,
as little boys so often do.
"It would hardly seem so," said Mr. Carter, "if you sit on
your behind all the afternoon, doing nothing. Had my father
caught me doing nothing, I should not have sat very comfort-
"He played," said Mrs. Carter.
"A bit," said the boy, shifting on his chair.
 Thus I Refute Beelzy
"Too much," said Mrs. Carter. "He comes in all nervy and
dazed. He ought to have his rest."
"He is six," said her husband. "He is a reasonable being. He
must choose for himself. But what game is this, Small Simon,
that is worth getting nervy and dazed over? There are very few
games as good as all that."
"It's nothing," said the boy.
"Oh, come," said his father. "We are friends, are we not? You
can tell me. I was a Small Simon once, just like you, and played
the same games you play. Of course there were no aeroplanes in
those days. With whom do you play this fine game? Come on,
we must all answer civil questions, or the world would never go
round. With whom do you play?"
"Mr. Beelzy," said the boy, unable to resist.
"Mr. Beelzy?" said his father, raising his eyebrows inquiringly
at his wife.
"It's a game he makes up," said she.
"Not makes up!" cried the boy. "Fool!"
"That is telling stories, said his mother. "And rude as well.
We had better talk of something different."
"No wonder he is rude," said Mr. Carter, "if you say he tells
lies, and then insist on changing the subject. He tells you his
fantasy: you implant a guilt feeling. What can you expect? A
defence mechanism. Then you get a real lie."
"Like in These Three,' 9 said Betty. "Only different, of course.
She was an unblushing little liar."
"I would have made her blush," said Mr. Carter, "in the proper
part of her anatomy. But Small Simon is in the fantasy stage.
Are you not, Small Simon? You just make things up."
"No, I don't," said the boy.
"You do," said his father. "And because you do, it is not too
late to reason with you. There is no harm in a fantasy, old chap.
There is no harm in a bit of make-believe. Only you have to
know the difference between day dreams and real things, or
your brain will never grow. It will never be the brain of a Big
Simon. So come on. Let us hear about this Mr. Beelzy of yours.
Come on. What is he like?"
"He isn't like anything," said the boy.
"Like nothing on earth?" said his father. "That's a terrible
Thus I Refute Beelzy 
"I'm not frightened of him," said the child, smiling. "Not a
"I should hope not," said his father. "If you were, you would
be frightening yourself. I am always telling people, older people
than you are, that they are just frightening themselves. Is he a
funny man? Is he a giant?"
"Sometimes he is," said the little boy.
"Sometimes one thing, sometimes another," said his father.
"Sounds pretty vague. Why can't you tell us just what he's like?"
"I love him," said the small boy. "He loves me."
"That's a big word," said Mr. Carter. "That might be better
kept for real things, like Big Simon and Small Simon."
"He is real," said the boy, passionately. "He's not a fool. He's
"Listen," said his father. "When you go down the garden
there's nobody there. Is there?"
"No," said the boy.
"Then you think of him, inside your head, and he comes."
"No," said Small Simon. "I have to do something with my
"That doesn't matter."
"Yes, it does."
"Small Simon, you are being obstinate," said Mr. Carter. "I
am trying to explain something to you. I have been longer in
the world than you have, so naturally I am older and wiser. I
am explaining that Mr. Beelzy is a fantasy of yours. Do you
hear? Do you understand?"
"He is a game. He is a let's-pretend."
The little boy looked down at his plate, smiling resignedly.
"I hope you are listening to me," said his father. "All you have
to do is to say, T have been playing a game of let's-pretend.
With someone I make up, called Mr. Beelzy.' Then no one will
say you tell lies, and you will know the difference between
dreams and reality. Mr. Beelzy is a day dream."
The little boy still stared at his plate.
"He is sometimes there and sometimes not there," pursued
Mr. Carter. "Sometimes he's like one thing, sometimes another.
You can't really see him. Not as you see me. I am real. You
can't touch him. You can touch me. I can touch you." Mr. Car-
 Thus I Refute Beelzy
ter stretched out his big, white, dentist's hand, and took his
little son by the shoulder. He stopped speaking for a moment
and tightened his hand. The little boy sank his head still lower.
"Now you know the difference," said Mr. Carter, "between a
pretend and a real thing. You and I are one thing; he is another.
Which is the pretend? Come on. Answer me. What is the pre-
"Big Simon and Small Simon," said the little boy.
"Don't!" cried Betty, and at once put her hand over her
mouth, for why should a visitor cry "Don't!" when a father is
explaining things in a scientific and modern way?
"Well, my boy," said Mr. Carter, "I have said you must be
allowed to learn from experience. Go upstairs. Right up to your
room. You shall learn whether it is better to reason, or to be
perverse and obstinate. Go up. I shall follow you."
"You are not going to beat the child?" cried Mrs. Carter.
"No," said the little boy. "Mr. Beelzy won't let him."
"Go on up with you!" shouted his father.
Small Simon stopped at the door. "He said he wouldn't let
anyone hurt me," he whimpered. "He said he'd come like a lion,
with wings on, and eat them up."
"You'll learn how real he is!" shouted his father after him.
"If you can't learn it at one end, you shall learn it at the other.
I'll have your breeches down. I shall finish my cup of tea first,
however," said he to the two women.
Neither of them spoke. Mr. Carter finished his tea, and un-
hurriedly left the room, washing his hands with his invisible
soap and water.
Mrs. Carter said nothing. Betty could think of nothing to say.
She wanted to be talking: she was afraid of what they might hear.
Suddenly it came. It seemed to tear the air apart. "Good
God!" she cried. "What was that? He's hurt him." She sprang
out of her chair, her silly eyes flashing behind her glasses. "I'm
going up there!" she cried, trembling.
"Yes, let us go up," said Mrs. Carter. "Let us go up. That
was not Small Simon."
It was on the second-floor landing that they found the shoe,
with the man's foot still in it, like that last morsel of a mouse
which sometimes falls from the jaws of a hasty cat.
NIGHT! YOUTH! PARIS! AND THE MOON!
ANNOYED WITH THE WORLD, I TOOK A LARGE STUDIO IN HAMP-
stead. Here I resolved to live in utter aloofness, until the world
should approach me on its knees, whining its apologies.
The studio was large and high: so was the rent. Fortunately
my suit was strongly made, and I had a tireless appetite for
herrings. I lived here happily and frugally, pleased with the vast
and shadowy room, and with the absurd little musicians' gallery,
on which, however, I set my gramophone a-playing. I approved
also of the little kitchen, the bathroom, the tiny garden, and
even the damp path, sad with evergreens, that led to the street
beyond. I saw no one. My mood was that of a small bomb, but
one which had no immediate intention of going off.
Although I had no immediate intention of going off, I was un-
able to resist buying a large trunk, which I saw standing outside
a junk-shop. I was attracted by its old-fashioned appearance, for
I myself hoped to become old-fashioned: by its size, because I
am rather small, by its curved lid, for I was always fond of curves,
and most of all by a remark on the part of the dealer, who stood
picking his nose in the disillusioned doorway of his shop. "A
thing like that," said he, "is always useful."
I paid four pounds, and had the large black incubus taken to
my studio on a hand-barrow. There I stood it on the little gallery,
which, for no reason, ran along the farther end.
Now I had no money left; I felt it necessary to sublet my
studio. This was a wrench. I telephoned the agents; soon they
arranged to bring a client of theirs, one Stewart Musgrave, to
inspect my harmless refuge. I agreed, with some reserve. "I pro-
pose to absent myself during this inspection. You will find the
key in the door. Later you can inform me if my studio is taken."
Later they informed me that my studio was taken. "I will
leave," I said, "at four o'clock on Friday. The interloper can
come at four-thirty. He will find the key in the door."
Night I Youth! Paris! And the Moon! 
Just before four on Friday, I found myself confronted with a
problem. On letting one's studio, one locks one's clothes in a
press reserved for the purpose. This I did, but was then nude.
One has to pack one's trunk: I had nothing to put in it. I had
bidden the world farewell: here was my studio — sublet — there
was the world. For practical purposes there is very little else any-
The hour struck. I cut the Gordian knot, crossed the Rubicon,
burned my boats, opened my trunk, and climbed inside. At four-
thirty the interloper arrived. With bated breath I looked out
through my little air-and-peep-hole. This was a surprise. I had
bargained for a young man of no personal attractions. Stewart
Musgrave was a young woman of many.
She had a good look around, pulled out every drawer, peeped
into every corner. She bounced herself on the big divan-bed. She
even came up onto the little useless gallery, leaned over, recited
a line or two of Juliet, and then she approached my modest re-
treat. "I won't open you," she said. "There might be a body in
you." I thought this showed a fine instinct. Her complexion was
There is a great deal of interest in watching a lovely young
girl, who imagines herself to be alone in a large studio. One never
knows what she will do next. Often, when lying there alone,
I had not known what I would do next. But then I was alone.
She thought she was alone too, but I knew better. This gave me
a sense of mastery, power.
On the other hand, I soon loved her to distraction. The hell of
it was, I had a shrewd suspicion she did not love me. How could
At night, while she slept in an appealing attitude, I crept down-
stairs, and into the kitchen, where I cleaned up the crockery,
her shoes, and some chicken I found in the ice-box. "There is,"
she said to a friend, "a pixie in this studio." "Leave out some
milk," said her friend.
Everything went swimmingly. Nothing could have been more
delicate than the unspoken love that grew up between the dis-
illusioned world-weary poet and the beautiful young girl-artist,
so fresh, so natural, and so utterly devoid of self-consciousness.
On one occasion, I must admit, I tripped over the corner of a
 Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon!
rug. "Who is there?" she cried, waking suddenly from a dream of
having her etchings lovingly appraised by a connoisseur.
"A mouse," I telepathed squeakingly, standing very still. She
sank into sleep again.
She was more rudely put to sleep some days later. She came
in, after being absent most of the evening, accompanied by a
man to whom I took an immediate dislike. My instinct never
fails me: he had not been in the studio half an hour before he
gave her occasion to say, "Pray don't!"
"Yes," said he.
"No," said she.
"I must," said he.
"You mustn't," said she.
"I will," said he.
"You won't," said she.
A vestige of refined feeling would have assured him that there
was no possibility of happiness between people so at variance on
every point. There should be at least some zone of enthusiastic
agreement between every couple: for example, the milk. But
whatever his feelings were, they were not refined.
"Why did you bring me here?" said he with a sneer.
"To see my etchings," she replied, biting her lip.
"Well, then "
"I thought you were a customer."
"I am. A tough customer." With that he struck her on the
temple. She fell, mute, inanimate, crumpled.
"Damn it!" said he. "I've killed her. I've done her in. I shall
swing. Unless — I escape."
I was forced to admire the cold logic of it. It was, momentarily,
the poet's unreasoning prostration before the man of action, the
Quickly he undressed her. "Gosh!" he said. "What a pity I hit
so hard!" He flung her over his shoulder, retaining her legs in his
grasp. He bore her up the stairs, onto the shadowy balcony. He
opened the trunk and thrust her inside. "Here is a fine thing!" I
thought. "Here she is, in her condition, alone with me, in my
condition. If she knew she was dead she'd be glad." The thought
Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon! 
With the dawn he went for a taxi. The driver came in with
him; together they bore the trunk to the vehicle waiting out-
"Strewth, it's heavy!" said the driver. "What yer got in it?"
"Books," said the murderer, with the utmost calm.
If I had thought of saying, "Paradise Lost, in two volumes,"
I should have said it, then and there, and this story would have
come to an end. As it was we were hoisted on to the cab, which
drove off in the direction of Victoria.
A jet of cool night air flowed through the air-hole. She, whom
I had mourned as dead, inhaled it, and breathed a sigh. Soon she
was fully conscious.
"Who are you?" she asked in alarm.
"My name," I said tactfully, "is Emily."
She said, "You are kidding me."
I said, "What is your name?"
She said, "Stewart."
I could not resist the reply, "Then I am Flora MacDonald."
Thus by easy stages I approached the ticklish question of my
hitherto hopeless love.
She said, "I would rather die."
I said, "In a sense you have died already. Besides, I am your
pixie. Or it may be only a dream, and you could hardly blame
yourself for that. Anyway, I expect he will take us to Paris."
"It is true," she said, "that I have always dreamed of a honey-
moon in Paris."
"The Paris moon!" I said. "The bookstalls on the quais. The
little restaurants on the Left Bank!"
"The Cirque Medrano!" she cried.
"Le Louvre! Le Petit Palais!"
"Le Boeuf sur le Toit!"
"Darling," she cried, "if it were not so dark, I would show you
my etchings, if I had them with me."
We were in absolute raptures; we heard the ticket being taken
for Paris. We were registered; it was next door to being married,
and we laughed at the rolling of the vessel. Soon, however, we
were carried up an endless flight of stairs.
 Night! Youth! Paris! And the Moon!
"Mon Dieu! Mais c'est lourde!" gasped the hotel porter.
"Quest-ce que c'est — dans la malle?"
"Des livres," said the murderer, with the utmost sang-froid.
"Paradis Retrouve, une edition complete," I whispered, and
was rewarded with a kiss.
Alone, as he thought, with his lifeless victim, the murderer
sneered. "H'ya keeping?" said he coarsely, as he approached the
He lifted the lid a little, and thrust his head within. A rim ran
round inside; while yet he blinked, we seized it, and brought the
lid down with a crash.
"La guillotine?" I said cuttingly.
"La Dejarge!" observed my adored one, knitting her brows.
"Vive la France!"
We stepped out; we put him inside. I retained his clothes.
With a sheet from the bed, the bell rope, and a strip of carpet
from before the wash-stand, she made a fetching Arab lass. To-
gether we slipped out into the street.
Night! Youth! Paris! And the moon!
f»ftfffffff»ffff?fff»ffftfMffffffftfffff!fffffff ? ff?ff»f?ft»ffffffffff!ff»fftf ? tf!t f »!ff ? t!tf f f!ff ? fftf f f?ff f ffff f
J!W^ VARIATION OK A THEME .WW!
A YOUNG MAN, WITH A BOWLER HAT, CANE, FLAXEN MOUSTACHE,
and blue suit, was looking at a gorilla in a zoo. All about him
were cages floored with squares of desert. On these yellow flats,
like precise false statements of equatorial latitudes, lay the
shadows of bars. There were nutshells, banana skins, fading let-
tuce; there were the cries of birds who believed themselves mewed
up because they were mad, the obeisance of giraffes, the yawns
of lions. In an imitation of moon crags, mountain goats bore about
ignobly eyes that were pieces of moon. The elephants, grey in a
humidity of grass and dung, shifted from one foot to another.
Jurassic days, it seemed, would quite definitely never be here
again. Mice, moving with the speed of a nervous twitch, were
bold in the freedom of a catastrophe of values.
Perceiving that they were alone, the gorilla addressed the
young man as follows: "You look very good-natured. Get me a
suit like yours, only larger, a bowler hat, and a cane. We will dis-
pense with the moustache. I want to get out of here. I got am-
The young man was greatly taken aback to hear a gorilla speak.
However, common sense reminded him that he was in a city in
which many creatures enjoyed that faculty, whom, at first sight,
or at any hearing, one would hardly credit with sufficient intelli-
gence to have attained it. He therefore recovered from his won-
der, but, having a nice sense of distinctions, he replied to the
gorilla, "I do not see that I can do that, for the place for a gorilla
is either a cage or the Congo. In the society of men you would
be like a fish out of water, like a bull in a china shop, or a round
peg in a square hole. You would be a cause of embarrassment,
and would therefore yourself be embarrassed. You would be
treated as an alien, disdained on account of your complexion, and
slighted because of your facial angle."
The gorilla was very much mortified by this reply, for he was
Variation on a Theme 
extremely vain. "Here," he said, "y° u don't want to say that sort
of thing. I'm a writer. Write you anything you like. I've written
"That alters the situation entirely!" cried the young man with
enthusiasm. "I am a novelist myself, and am always ready to
lend a hand to a struggling fellow author. Tell me one thing only,
and my services are yours. Have you genius?"
"Yes," said the gorilla, "I certainly have."
"In that case," said the young man, "I shall bring your suit,
hat, cane, shoes, and body-linen at this hour tomorrow. I will also
bring you a file, and you will find me awaiting you under the large
chestnut tree by the West Gate, at the hour of dusk."
The gorilla had not expected the file. As a matter of fact, he
had asked for the outfit, not for purposes of escape, but in order
to cut a figure before the public. He was rather like one of those
prisoners who wrote from old Spain, and who were more inter-
ested in what they got in than in how they got out. However, he
hated to waste anything, so, having received the file, he put it
to such use as enabled him to join his benefactor under the dark
and summer tree.
The young man, intoxicated by his own good action, shook the
gorilla warmly by the hand. "My dear fellow," said he, "I can-
not say how glad I am to see you out here among us. I am sure
you have written a great novel in there; all the same, bars are
very dangerous to literary men in the long run. You will find my
little house altogether more propitious to your genius. Don't
think that we are too desperately dull, however; everyone drops
in on Sundays, and during the week we have a little dinner or
two, at which you will meet the sort of people you should
know. By the way, I hope you have not forgotten your manu-
"Fellow came snooping in just as I was making my getaway,"
said the gorilla. "So I had to dump it. See?" This was the most
villainous lie in the world, for the unscrupulous ape had never
written so much as a word.
"What a terrible pity!" cried the young man in dismay. "I
suppose you feel you will have to return to it."
"Not me," said the gorilla, who had been watching some singu-
larly handsome limousines pass the spot where they were stand-
 Variation on a Theme
ing, and had noticed the faultless complexions and attractive
toilettes of the ladies whom these limousines were conveying from
one party to another. "No," said he. "Never mind. I got the whole
thing in my head, You put me up: I'll write it out all over again.
I don't worry."
"Upon my word, I admire your spirit!" cried his deliverer en-
thusiastically. "There is something uncommercial about that,
which appeals to me more than I can say. I am sure you are right;
the work will be even more masterly for being written over again.
A thousand little felicities, necessarily brushed aside in the first
headlong torrent of creativeness, will now assert their claims.
Your characters will appear, so to speak, more in the round than
formerly. You will forget some little details, though of course you
will invent others even more telling; very well, those that you
forget will be the real shadows, which will impart this superior
roundness to your characters. Oh, there is nothing like litera-
ture! You shall have a little study on the second floor, quiet,
austere, but not uncomfortable, where you shall reconstruct your
great work undisturbed. It will undoubtedly be the choice of the
Book Society, and I really don't see why we should not hope for
the Hawthornden as well."
By this time they were strolling along under the dozing trees,
each of which was full-gorged with a large block of the day's
heat, still undigested, and breathed spicily upon them as they
"We live quite near here," said the enthusiast. "My wife will
be delighted to make your acquaintance. You two are going to
be great friends. Here is the house: it is small, but luckily it is of
just the right period, and as you see, we have the finest wistaria
in London." Saying this, he pushed open a little wooden gate,
one of some half-dozen in a quiet cul-de-sac, which still preserved
its Queen Anne serenity and charm. The gorilla, looking discon-
tentedly at certain blocks of mansion flats that towered up on
either hand, said never a word.
The front garden was very small: it had flagstones, irises, and
an amusing urn, overflowing with the smouldering red of gera-
niums, which burned in the velvet dark like the cigarette ends of
the lesser gods.
"We have a larger patch behind," said the young man, "where
Variation on a Theme 
there is a grass plot, nicotinias, and deck chairs in the shade of a
fig tree. Come in, my dear fellow, come in. Joanna, where are you?
Here is our new friend."
"I hope," said the gorilla in a low voice, "you ain't given her
the low-down on you know what/'
"No, no," whispered his host. "I have kept our little secret.
A gentleman from Africa, I said — who has genius."
There was no time for more. Mrs. Grantly was descending the
stairs. She was tall, with pale hair caught up in an unstudied knot
behind, and a full-skirted gown which was artistic but not un-
"This is Mr. Simpson," said her husband. "My dear, Mr. Simp-
son has written a book which is going to create more than a
passing stir. Unfortunately he has lost the manuscript, but (what
do you think?) he has consented to stay with us while he rewrites
it. He has it all in his head. His name's er — er — Ernest."
"How perfectly delightful!" cried Mrs. Grantly. "We live ter-
ribly simply here, I'm afraid, but at least you will be quiet. Will
you wash your hands? There is a little supper waiting for us in
The gorilla, not accustomed to being treated with so much con-
sideration, took refuge in an almost sullen silence. During the
meal he spoke mostly in monosyllables, and devoured a pro-
digious number of bananas, and his hostess, with teeth and eyes
The young couple were as delighted by their visitor as children
with a new toy. "He is unquestionably dynamic, original, and
full of that true simplicity which is perhaps the clearest hall-
mark of genius," said the young man when they were in bed to-
gether. "Did you notice him with the bananas?"
Mrs. Grantly folded her husband in her arms, which were de-
lightfully long and round. "It will be wonderful," she said. "How
I look forward to the day when both your books are published!
He must meet the Booles and the Terrys. What discussions you
will have! How delightful life is, to those who care for art!" They
gave each other a score of kisses, talked of the days when first
they had met, and fell happily asleep.
In the morning there was a fine breakfast, with fruit juice,
cereals, bacon and mushrooms, and the morning papers. The
 Variation on a Theme
gorilla was shown his little study; he tried the chairs and the sofa,
and looked at himself in the glass.
"Do you think you will be happy here?" asked Mr. Grantly
very anxiously. "Is the room conducive to the right mood, do
you think? There are cigarettes in that box; there's a lavatory
across the landing. If you'd care to try a pipe, I have a tobacco
jar I'll send up here. What about the desk? Is there everything
on it that you'll require?"
"I shall manage. I shall manage," said the gorilla, still looking
at himself in the glass.
"If there's anything you want, don't hesitate to ring that bell,"
said his host. "I've told the maids that you are now one of the
family. I'm in the front room on the floor below if you want me.
Well, I suppose you are burning to get to work. Till lunch time,
then!" And with that he took his leave of the gorilla, who con-
tinued to stare at himself in the glass.
When he was tired of this, which was not for some time, he
ate a few of the cigarettes, opened all the drawers, had a look up
the chimney, estimated the value of the furniture, exposed his
teeth very abominably, scratched, and finally flung himself on
the sofa and began to make his plans.
He was of that nature which sets down every disinterested
civility as a sign of weakness. Moreover, he regarded his host as
a ham novelist as well as a milksop, for he had not heard a single
word about percentages since he entered the house. "A washout!
A highbrow!" he said. "A guy like that giving the handout to a
guy like me, eh? We'll soon alter that. The question is, how?"
This gorilla wanted suits of a very light grey, pearl tie-pins, a
superb automobile, blondes, and the society of the boys. Never-
theless, his vanity itself was greedy, and snatched at every
crumb; he was unable to resist the young man's enthusiasm for
his non-existent novel, and instead of seeking his fortune as a
heavy-weight pug, he convinced himself in good earnest that he
was a writer, unjustly hindered by the patronage and fussing of
a blood-sucking so-called intellectual. He turned the pages of
half the books in the book-case to see the sort of thing he should
do, but found it rather hard to make a start. "This goddam place
stifles me," he said.
Variation on a Theme 
"What's your plot like?" said he to the young man, one day
soon afterwards, when they were sitting in the shade of the fig
Grantly was good enough to recite the whole of his plot. "It
sounds very trifling," he said, "but of course a lot depends on
"Style? Style, the hell!" observed the gorilla with a toothy
"I thought you'd say that!" cried his entertainer. "No doubt
you have all the vitality that I so consciously lack. I imagine
your work as being very close to the mainsprings of life, the sultry
passions, the crude lusts, the vital urges, the stark, the raw, the
dynamic, the essentially fecund and primitive."
"That's it," said the gorilla.
"The sentence," continued the rhapsodist, "short to the point
of curtness, attuned by a self-concealing art to the grunts, groans,
and screams of women with great primeval paps, and men "
"Sure," said the gorilla.
"They knock each other down," went on his admirer. "As
they taste the salt blood flowing over their lips, or see the female
form suddenly grow tender under the influence of innumerable
upper-cuts, right hooks, straight lefts, they become aware of an-
other emotion "
"Yes!" cried the gorilla with enthusiasm.
"And with a cry that is half a sob ■"
"Attaboy!" cried the gorilla.
"They leap, clutch, grapple, and in an ecstasy that is half sheer
bursting, burning, grinding, soul-shattering pain "
The gorilla, unable to contain himself any longer, bit through
the best branch of Mr. Grantly's fig tree. "You said it! That's my
book, sir!" said he, with a mouthful of splinters.
I hate to have to record it: this gorilla then rushed into the
house and seized his hostess in a grip of iron. "I'm in a creative
mood," he muttered thickly.
Mrs. Grantly was not altogether free from hero worship: she
had taken her husband's word for it that the gorilla was a genius
of the fiercest description. She admired both his complexion and
his eyes, and she, too, observed that his grip was of iron.
 Variation on a Theme
At the same time, she was a young woman of exquisite refine-
ment. "I can't help thinking of Dennis," said she. "I should hate
to hurt him."
"Yeah?" cried the ill-bred anthropoid. "That poor fish? That
ham writer? That bum artist? Don't you worry about him. I'll
beat him up, baby! I'll "
Mrs. Grantly interrupted him with some dignity. She was one
of those truly noble women who would never dream of betray-
ing their husbands, except at the bidding of a genuine passion,
and with expressions of the most tender esteem.
"Let me go, Ernest," she said, with such an air as compelled
the vain ape to obey her. This ape, like all vulgarians, was very
sensitive to any hint that he appeared low. "You do not raise
yourself in my opinion by disparaging Dennis," she continued.
"It merely shows you are lacking in judgment, not only of men
but of women."
"Aw, cut it out, Joanna," begged the humiliated gorilla. "See
here: I only forgot myself. You know what we geniuses are!"
"If you were not a genius," said Joanna, "I should have you
turned out of the house. As it is — you shall have another chance."
The gorilla had not the spirit to interpret these last words as
liberally as some of us might. Perhaps it was because he had
lived so long behind bars, but they fell upon his ear as upon that
of some brutalized coward snuffling in the dock. The timid husky
saw no invitation in Mrs. Grantly 's smile: he was panic-stricken
at the thought of losing his snug quarters.
"Say, you won't split on me, sister?" he muttered.
"No, no," said Mrs. Grantly. "One takes the commonsense
view of these trifles. But you must behave more nicely in future."
"Sure," said he, much relieved. "I'll start in working right
He went straightway up to his room, looked at himself in the
glass, and thus, oddly enough, recovered his damaged self-esteem.
"I'll show those po' whites how to treat a gentleman," said he.
"What did that poor worm say? 'Leap — clutch — grapple — ' Oh
boy! Oh boy! This book's goin' to sell like hot cakes."
He scribbled away like the very devil. His handwriting was
atrocious, but what of that? His style was not the best in the
world; however, he was writing about life in the raw. A succes-
Variation on a Theme 
sion of iron grips, such as the one he had been forced to loosen,
of violent consummations, interruptions, beatings-up, flowed
from his pen, interspersed with some bitter attacks on effete civili-
zation, and many eulogies of the primitive.
"This'll make 'em sit up," said he. "This'll go big."
When he went down to supper, he noticed some little chilliness
in Mrs. Grantly's demeanor: this was no doubt due to his
cowardly behavior in the afternoon. He trusted no one, and now
became damnably afraid she would report his conduct to her
husband; consequently he was the more eager to get his book
done, so that he should be independent and in a position to re-
venge himself. He went upstairs immediately after the meal, and
toiled away till past midnight, writing like one who confesses to
a Sunday newspaper.
Before many days had passed in this fashion, he was drawing
near the end of his work, when the Grantlys announced to him,
with all the appearance of repressed excitement, that the best
selling of all novelists was coming to dine with them. The gorilla
looked forward to the evening with equal eagerness; he looked
forward to gleaning a tip or two.
The great man arrived; his limousine was sufficiently resplend-
ent. The big ape eyed him with the very greatest respect all
through the meal. Afterwards they sat about and took coffee,
just as ordinary people do. "I hear," said the Best-Seller to
Grantly, "that you are just finishing a novel."
"Oh, the poor thing!" said the good-natured fellow. "Simpson,
here, is the man who's going to set the Thames on fire. I fear mj
stuff is altogether too niggling. It is a sort of social satire, I touch
a little on the Church, Fleet Street, the Fascists — one or two
things of that sort, but hardly in a full-blooded fashion. I wish
I could write something more primitive — fecund women, the urge
of lust, blood hatred, all that, you know."
"Good heavens, my dear Grantly!" cried the great man. "This
comes of living so far out of the world. You really must move to
some place more central. Public taste is on the change. I can
assure you, that before your book can be printed, Mr. Glitters"
(he mentioned the critic who makes or breaks) "will no longer
be engaged, but married, and to a young woman of Junoesque
proportions. What chance do you think the urge of lust will have
 Variation on a Theme
with poor Glitters, after a month of his marriage to this mag-
nificently proportioned young woman? No, no, my boy; stick to
social satire. Put a little in about feminism, if you can find room
for it. Guy the cult of the he-man, and its effect on deluded
women, and you're safe for a record review. You'll be made."
"I've got something of that sort in it," said Grantly with much
gratification, for authors are like beds; even the most artistic re-
quires to be made.
"Who's doing the book for you?" cried the novelist enthusias-
tically. "You must let me give you a letter to my publisher.
Nothing is more disheartening than hawking a book round the
market, and having it returned unread. But Sykes is good enough
to set some weight on my judgment; in fact, I think I may say,
without boasting, you may look on the matter as settled."
"Say, you might give me a letter too!" cried the gorilla, who
had been listening in consternation to the great man's discourse.
"I should be delighted, Mr. Simpson," returned that worthy
with great suavity. "But you know what these publishers are.
Pig-headed isn't the word for them. Well, Grantly, I must be
getting along. A delightful evening! Mrs. Grantly," said he, slap-
ping his host on the shoulder, "this is the man who is going to
make us old fossils sit up. Take care of him. Give him some more
of that delicious zabaglione. Good night. Good night."
The gorilla was tremendously impressed by the great man's
manner, his confidence, his pronouncements, his spectacles, his
limousine, and above all by the snub he had given him, for such
creatures are always impressed by that sort of thing. "That guy
knows the works," he murmured in dismay. "Say, I been barking
up the wrong tree! I oughta gone in for style."
The Grantlys returned from the hall, where they had accom-
panied their visitor, and it was obvious from their faces that they
too placed great reliance on what they had heard. I am not sure
that Mr. Grantly did not rub his hands.
"Upon my word!" he said. "It certainly sounds likely enough.
Have you ever seen Glitters' fiancee? His views will certainly
change. Ha! Ha! Supposing, my dear, I became a best-seller?"
"It's terribly exciting!" cried Joanna. "Will it change your idea
of going on a cruise when first the book comes out?"
"No, no," said he. "I think an author should detach himself
Variation on a Theme 
from that side, however gratifyingly it may develop. I want to
know nothing of the book from the moment it appears till it is
"What? You going to spend a coupla days at Brighton?" struck
in the gorilla bitterly.
"Ha! Ha! What a satirist you would make!" cried Grantly with
the greatest good nature. "No. We thought of going for a trip
round the world. I agree a shorter absence would outlast what-
ever stir the book may make; however, we want to see the sights. 5 '
The gorilla wrote never a word that night. He was overcome
with mortification. He could not bear to think of the Grantlys
sailing around the world, while the book he had despised piled
up enormous royalties at home. Still less could he bear the
thought of staying behind, left without a patron, and with his
own book piling up no royalties at all. He saw a species of insult
in his host's "striking gold" as he termed it, and then turning his
back on it in this fashion.
"That guy don't deserve the boodle!" he cried in anguish of
spirit. In fact, he uttered this sentiment so very often during the
night that in the end an idea was born of its mere repetition.
During the next few days he hastily and carelessly finished his
own masterpiece, to have it ready against the coup he planned.
In a word, this vile ape had resolved to change the manuscripts:
he had alternative title pages, in which the names of the authors
were transposed, typed in readiness. When at last the good
Grantly announced that his work was complete, the gorilla an-
nounced the same; the two parcels were done up on the same
evening, and the plotter was insistent in his offers to take them
to the post.
Grantly was the more willing to permit this, as he and his
wife were already busy with preparations for their departure.
Shortly afterwards, they took their farewell of the gorilla, and,
pressing into his hand a tidy sum to meet his immediate necessi-
ties, they wished his book every success, and advised that his
next should be a satire.
The cunning ape bade them enjoy themselves, and took up his
quarters in Bloomsbury, where he shortly had the pleasure of
receiving a letter from the publishers to say that they were ac-
cepting the satirical novel which he had sent them.
 Variation on a Theme
He now gave himself great airs as a writer, and got all the
publicity he could. On one occasion, however, he was at a party,
where he beheld a woman of Junoesque proportions in the com-
pany of a bilious weakling. The party was a wild one, and he
made no scruple of seizing her in a grip of iron, regardless of the
fury of her companion. This incident made little impression on
his memory, for he attended a good many Bloomsbury parties.
All the same, nothing is entirely unimportant. It so happened
that the bilious weakling was no other than Glitters, the greatest
of critics, and the Junoesque lady was his promised spouse. The
critic reviewed her behavior very bitterly, the engagement was
broken off, and you may be sure he noted the name of the author
of his misfortunes.
Very well, the two books came out: Dennis's, which the gorilla
had stolen, and the gorilla's own raw outpourings, which now
appeared under the name of Dennis Grantly. By a coincidence,
they appeared on the same day. The gorilla opened the greatest
Sunday newspaper, and saw the pleasing headline, "Book of the
"That's me!" said he, smacking his lips, and fixing a hungry
gaze on the letter-press, he discovered to his horror that it ac-
tually was. The critic, still a celibate, and by now an embittered
one also, had selected the anthropoid's original tough stuff as
being "raw, revealing, sometimes dangerously frank, at all times
a masterpiece of insight and passion." Farther down, in fact at
the very bottom of the column, the stolen satire was dismissed
in two words only — "unreadably dull."
As if this misfortune was not sufficient, the next day the poor
gorilla was leaving his lodgings when a young man in a black
shirt tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he was Mr.
Simpson. The gorilla replying in the affirmative, the black shirt
introduced him to a dozen or so friends of his, similarly attired.
It appeared that these young gentlemen disapproved of certain
references Grantly had made to their association, and had de-
cided to give the wretched Simpson a beating-up by way of
The gorilla fought like a demon, but was overpowered by num-
bers; in the end he was flogged insensible and left lying in the
mews where the ceremony had taken place. It was not till the
Variation on a Theme 
next morning that he dragged himself home; when he arrived
there, he found a bevy of lawyers' clerks and policemen inquiring
for him. It appeared that Dennis, for all his delicacy and re-
straint, had been guilty of blasphemy, ordinary libel, obscene
libel, criminal libel, sedition, and other things, in his references to
the State, the Church, and so forth. "Who would have thought,"
the gorilla moaned bitterly, "that there was all that in a little
bit of style?' ,
During the various trials, he sat in a sullen silence, caring only
to look at the newspapers which contained advertisements of
the book he had substituted for Grantly's. When the sales passed
a hundred thousand, he became violent, and insulted the judge.
When they reached double that figure he made a despairing at-
tempt at confession, but this was put down as a clumsy simula-
tion of insanity. In the end his sentences amounted to a book in
themselves, and were issued in serial form. He was carted off,
and put behind the bars.
"All this," said he, "comes of wanting a suit of clothes for the
public to see me in. I've got the clothes, but I don't like them,
and the public aren't allowed in anyway." This gave him a posi-
tive hatred of literature, and one who hates literature, and is
moreover in quod for an interminable period of years, is in a
truly miserable condition.
As for Dennis Grantly: by the time he returned, he was so
much the fashionable author that he never found a moment in
which to open a book again, and thus he remained happily ig-
norant of the fraud. His wife, when she reflected on the fame and
riches won by her husband, and remembered that afternoon
when she had been almost too favorably impressed by the iron
grip of the primitive, frequently went up to him and gave him
an uninvited hug and kiss, and these hugs and kisses afforded
him a very delicious gratification.
^mt^^?tf^ttf^?tf^t OLD ACQUAINTANCE ^!!fflffl!^
THE APARTMENT, ON A FIFTH FLOOR IN THE HuitiSme ArTOIldisse-
ment, was pervaded by the respectable smell of furniture polish.
The Parisian menage of 40,000 francs a year smells either thus,
or of a certain perfume, which indicates quite a different way of
Monsieur and Madame Dupres, admirably fitted by tempera-
ment for the rotund connubialities of a more spicily scented
dwelling, nevertheless had dwindled away twenty years of life in
the austere aroma of furniture polish. This was because of an in-
tense though unacknowledged jealousy, which had early inclined
both parties to the mortification of their own flesh.
Monsieur had been jealous because he had suspected that
Madame was not without certain regrets when they married.
Madame had been jealous rather in the manner of a miser who
underpays his servant and therefore suspects his honesty. It is
true that, on the rare occasions when they visited the cafe,
Monsieur would look round for a copy of La Vie Parisienne, and
if there was a picture in it that interested him his eyes would
remain riveted on it for five minutes at a stretch.
Hence the unvoluptuous furniture of Parisian puritanism, and
hence its weekly anointings with the pungent resins of respect-
Now, in the bedroom, the smell of medicine was added. Madame
Dupres lay dying of a frugal pneumonia. Her husband sat beside
the bed, unfolding his handkerchief in hopeful expectation of a
tear, and craving damnably for a smoke.
"My dear," said Madame faintly, "what are you thinking
about? I said: 'Get the gloves at Pascal's. There the prices are
not beyond all reason.' "
"My dear," replied her husband, "excuse me. I was thinking
of long ago: how we used to go about together, you and I and
Robert, in the days before he went to Martinique, before you and
Old Acquaintance [ 191 ]
I were married. What friends we were! We would have shared
our last cigarette."
"Robert! Robert!" murmured Madame Dupres. "I wish you
could be at my funeral."
At these words a ray of light fell into a long-neglected corner
of Monsieur's mind. "Holy saints!" cried he, slapping his knee.
"It was Robert, then, all the time?"
Madame Dupres made no reply; only smiled, and expired. Her
husband, a little at a loss as to what to do, kissed her lifeless
brow once or twice, tried kneeling by the bedside, got up, and
brushed his knees. "Twenty years!" he murmured, stealing a
glance at the mirror. "Now I must let the doctor know, the
notary, the undertaker, Aunt Gabrielle, the cousins, the Blan-
chards. I must call at the Mairie. I can hardly get a smoke at the
"I could have a puff here, but people coming in would smell it.
It would savor of a lack of respect for the dead. Perhaps if I
went down to the street door, just for five minutes . . . After all,
what are five minutes, after twenty years?"
So Monsieur Dupres descended to the street door, where he
stood on the step, conscious of the soft air of early evening, and
inhaling the first puff from his long-awaited cigarette. As he drew
in his first puff, a smile of the utmost satisfaction overspread his
"Ah, my poor Monsieur Dupres," said the concierge, emerg-
ing suddenly from her den, "how goes it with Madame? She
Conscious of his cigarette and his smile, Monsieur Dupres felt
he could hardly explain that his wife had passed away but a
minute before. "Thank you," said he, "she suffers no longer. She
The concierge expressed optimism. "After all," she said,
"Madame is from Angers. You know the proverb about the
women of Angers."
She prattled on in this vein; Monsieur Dupres paid no atten-
tion. "I will go upstairs," thought he, "and make the sad dis-
covery. Then I can return and confront this old cow with a more
"And then, my God! there is the doctor, the notary, the fu-
 Old Acquaintance
neral arrangements, aunts, cousins . . . My cigarette is done al-
ready, and I scarcely noticed I was smoking it. In a civilized
country a bereaved should be left alone with his regrets."
The concierge retired, but would undoubtedly soon return to
the attack. Monsieur Dupres felt that he could do with another
cigarette, but this time a cigarette smoked under better condi-
tions, so that its healing task might be accomplished unhindered.
His nervous condition demanded a seat in a modest cafe, a glass
of Pernod before him, and all about him the salutary air of
cafes, which is infinitely more fragrant than furniture polish.
"A cigarette, a Pernod," thought Monsieur Dupres, "and then
a good meal! A good meal calls for a glass of cognac afterwards:
the digestion requires it, the doctors recommend it. And yet —
what is one glass of cognac?
"I will tell you," said he to a passing dog. "The first glass of
cognac is utilitarian merely. It is like a beautiful woman, who
has, however, devoted herself entirely to doing good; to nursing,
for example. Nothing is more admirable, but one would like to
meet her sister. The second glass, on the other hand, is that self-
same sister, equally beautiful, and with leisure for a little harm-
less diversion. . . . Twenty years!"
Monsieur Dupres went upstairs for his hat.
He decided to go to the Victoire on the Boulevard Mont-
parnasse. It was there they used to celebrate, he and she and
Robert, in the old student days, whenever they were in funds.
"It will be, in effect, an act of homage," thought he, "far better
than disturbing her rest with doctors and cousins. And the cuisine
used to be superb."
Soon he was comfortably seated at the Victoire, with a mon-
ster Pernod before him. Every sip was like a caress, and, like a
caress, led to another. Monsieur Dupres ordered a second, and
permitted himself to glance at the pages of La Vie Parisienne.
"There is no doubt about it," said he to himself, "life is what
you choose to make it." He looked about him in search of a little
raw material. "Those two girls over there," thought he, "are
probably good-natured to a fault. I wonder if they wear little
articles like those in this picture."
His imagination conjured up a scene which he found incredibly
diverting. He was compelled to snigger through his nose. He ex-
Old Acquaintance 
perienced an ardent desire to slap somebody. "What in the world
have I been doing," thought he, "all these twenty years? Noth-
He looked up again, with the intention of darting a certain
sort of glance at the two young ladies who had appealed to his
fancy. He was mortified to see that they were gone.
He looked around the cafe, in the hope that they had only
changed their table, and saw, to his overwhelming surprise, at a
table quite near him, with a monster Pernod before her, none
other than Madame Dupres herself, apparently in the best of
health, and wearing her grey hat.
She was at once aware of his regard, compressed her lips, and
stifled a giggle, which exploded like soda-water within. She then
fixed him with an eye as quizzical as a parrot's eye. Monsieur
Dupres, taking up his glass, made haste to join his spouse. "My
dear," said he, "I came out to recover my calm."
Madame made no answer, only downed the second half of her
Pernod at a single swig, and, replacing the glass on the table,
fixed her eye unwaveringly upon it till her husband signalled the
waiter. "Another Pernod," said he. "In fact, bring two."
The power of conscience is so great, in a small way, that Mon-
sieur Dupres, on being discovered in the cafe, could not help
feeling that his wife knew his most secret intentions, even those
concerning the two young ladies. He anticipated a volley of re-
proaches. You may imagine his relief when he saw that Madame
was cocking her eye at him in the most tolerant and understand-
ing fashion over the rim of her glass, the contents of which were
drawn up as if by magic into the refined pouting of her lips.
"Marie," said he with a smile, "perhaps we have lived too nar-
rowly, as it were. After all, this is the twentieth century. What
a magnificent figure of a woman you really are!"
Madame Dupres smiled indulgently. At that moment the door
swung violently open, and a man entered, who looked about him
on all sides. Monsieur Dupres looked at this man. "Impossible!"
said he. "As I was saying, Marie, I have a delicious idea. Prepare
yourself to be shocked."
Madame Dupres, however, had noticed the newcomer. She
smiled delightedly, and waved her hand. Smiling also, but not
evincing any surprise, the newcomer hastened over.
 Old Acquaintance
"Robert!" cried Madame Dupres.
"God in heaven!" cried Monsieur. "It is Robert."
No words can express the felicity of these three old friends,
bound together by memories which were only mellowed by the
passage of twenty years. Besides, they were already half tight,
for it was apparent that Robert also had been indulging in an
aperitif or two. "Fancy seeing you!" said he to Monsieur Dupres.
"What a small world it is! There is really no room to do any-
Monsieur Dupres was equally incoherent. He could do nothing
but slap Robert on the back. They had a last round, and moved
into the restaurant on the other side of the partition.
"What have you been doing all these years?" asked Robert as
they seated themselves.
"Nothing very much," said Madame Dupres.
"Oho!" cried Robert, smiling all over his face. "Is that so? What
a magnificent evening we shall have! Tonight we drink the wine
we could never afford in the old days. You know the wine I mean,
"You mean the Hermitage," said Monsieur Dupres, who al-
ready had his nose in the list. "Eighty francs. Why not? To the
devil with eighty francs! A wine like that puts all sorts of ideas
into one's head. Champagne first. Why not? Like a wedding. Only
"Bravo!" cried Robert. "You have neatly expressed it."
"What shall we eat?" said Monsieur Dupres. "Study the menu,
my children, instead of looking at one another as if you were
raised from the dead. We must have something spicy. Marie, if
you eat garlic, I must eat garlic. He! He! He!"
"No garlic," said Robert.
"No garlic," said Madame Dupres.
"What?" said her husband. "You know you adore it."
"One's tastes change," said Madame.
"You are right," said her husband. "That was what I was saying
when Robert came in. I wish the fal-lal shops were open. Marie, I
would like to buy you a little present. Something I saw in a maga-
zine. Heavens, what wickedness there is in the world! The air
seems full of it. Marie, we have wasted our time. Here is the cham-
pagne. Here is a toast. After Lent, the Carnival!"
Old Acquaintance 
"After Lent, the Carnival!" cried the others, in the highest good
humor, touching their glasses together.
"Why be ashamed?" said Monsieur Dupres, laughing heartily.
"We have been married twenty years, Marie. Robert has been in
Martinique. There, they are black. What of it?"
"What of it?" echoed Madame, filliping Robert on the nose, and
"Embrace one another!" cried Monsieur Dupres, suddenly, and
in a voice of thunder. He rose in his chair to put an arm round
each of them. "Go on. Give her a kiss. She had a weakness for
you in the old days. You didn't know that, my boy. I know now:
I know everything. I remember on the night of our nuptials, I
thought: 'She has a weakness for somebody.' Twenty years!
Marie, you have never looked more beautiful than you look to-
night. What is twenty times three hundred and sixty-five?" Over-
come by the enormous figure that resulted, Monsieur Dupres burst
While he wept, the others, who were as drunk as he was, leaned
across the table, their foreheads now and then colliding, while
they chuckled inanely.
With the arrival of the brandy, Monsieur Dupres emerged into
a calmer mood. "The thing to do," said he, "is to make up for lost
time. Do you not agree with me?"
"Perfectly," said Robert, kissing him on both cheeks.
"Regard her," said Monsieur Dupres. "A woman of forty. Oh, if
only those little shops were open! Robert, old friend, a word in
Robert inclined that organ, but Monsieur Dupres was unable to
utter the promised confidence. He was capable of nothing but a
sputter of laughter, which obliged Robert to use his napkin as a
"To the devil with your little shops!" said Robert. "We need
nothing. There are cafes, bars, bistros, boites, night clubs, caba-
rets, everything. To the boulevard, all three!"
With that, he sprang up. The others unsteadily followed him.
On the street everyone looked at them with a smile. Madame's
respectable grey hat fell over her nose. She gave it a flick, and
sent it equally far over to the back of her head. They linked arms,
and began to sing a song about a broken casserole.
 Old Acquaintance
They visited several bars, and emerged from each more hilari-
ous than before. The men, crouching down so that their overcoats
trailed along the ground, shuffled along in imitation of dwarves,
as they had done in their student days. Madame was so exces-
sively amused that she was compelled to retire into the midnight
shadows of the little alley that runs between the Rue Guillaume
and the Avenue des Gascons.
"I suppose," hiccuped Monsieur Dupres, when she rejoined
them, "I suppose we should soon be going home."
Robert expressed his contempt for this notion wordlessly though
not soundlessly. "Mes amis** said he, facing round, and putting
a hand on a shoulder of each, while he surveyed them with a comi-
cal and a supplicating face, "Tries amis, Tries amis, pourquoi pas le
bordel?" At this he was overcome by a fit of silly laughter, which
was soon echoed by the others.
"It is, after all, the twentieth century," chuckled Monsieur
Dupres. "Besides, we must consider our friend Robert."
"It is in the nature of an occasion," said Madame. "It is a little
Accordingly they staggered in the direction of an establishment
known as the Trois Jolies Japonaises, the staff of which would no
doubt have worn kimonos were it not for the excessive warmth of
the premises. This warmth was the undoing of Monsieur Dupres.
They had no sooner seated themselves at a table in the lower salon
than he found it necessary to cool his face on the glass table top,
and immediately fell sound asleep.
After a humane interval, gentle hands must have guided him to
the door, and perhaps given him a gentle push, which set his legs
in motion after the manner of clock-work. At all events, he some-
how or other got home.
Next morning he woke on the narrow sofa in the dining-room
of his apartment, and smelled again the refreshing odor of furni-
ture polish. He found his head and stomach disordered, and his
mind half crazy: he had only a vague memory of great dissipation
the night before.
"Thank heaven she has been spared this!" thought he, looking
guiltily at the closed door of the bedroom. "It would have upset
her appallingly. But what? Am I mad? Do I remember her some-
Old Acquaintance 
where last night? What poison they serve in these days! Yet . . .
No, it is impossible.
"I must call the doctor," he said. "The undertaker, too. Notary,
aunts, cousins, friends, all the damned fry. Oh, my poor head!"
As he spoke he was proceeding towards the bedroom, and now he
opened the door. His brain reeled when he found his family busi-
ness would not after all be necessary. The bed was empty. Madame
Dupres was gone.
Clasping his brow, Monsieur Dupres staggered from the room,
and more fell than walked down the five flights of stairs to the
conciergerie. "Madame!" cried he to that experienced vigilant.
"My wife is gone!"
"I saw her go out last night," replied the concierge. "I saw her
grey hat go by soon after you had left."
"But she is dead!" cried Monsieur Dupres.
"Impossible," replied the concierge. "I would not discompose
you, Monsieur, but Madame was from Angers. You know the
With that she retired into her lodge, shrugging her shoulders.
"It was, then," cried Monsieur Dupres, "a plot, between her
and that abominable Robert! I had better notify the police."
He took the street car to the Chatelet, and, just as it was jolting
along at its fastest, he thought he saw them, still drunk, in broad
daylight, staggering round a corner in the Rue de Clichy. By the
time he had stopped the car and hurried back, they had utterly
Feeling completely overcome, Monsieur Dupres gave up his er-
rand, and decided to go home and rest a little, and took a taxi-cab
to get there the sooner. This taxi was halted in a traffic block, and
from it Monsieur Dupres saw quite distinctly, in a cab passing
across the very nose of his own taxi, his wife and his friend, locked
in each other's arms, scandalously drunk, and quite oblivious of
his existence. "Follow that cab!" cried he.
The driver did his best. They followed a cab all the way to the
Porte de Neuilly, only to see an elderly gentleman, probably an
ambassador, descend from it.
Monsieur Dupres paid the fare, which was no trifle, and made
his way back on the Metro. He had just descended from the train,
 Old Acquaintance
when he saw two people, getting in at the very far end, who were
experiencing some difficulty in negotiating the narrow door, for
their arms were about each other's waists. He started toward
them, the doors slammed all along the train, and in a moment it
had pulled out of the station.
Monsieur Dupres leaned against the wall. "Is it not my old
friend, Dupres?" asked a man who had just come onto the plat-
form. "I see it is. My dear fellow, are you ill?"
"Ill enough," replied Monsieur Dupres, utterly shattered. "My
wife has left me, my dear Labiche. She has left me for Robert
Crespigny, and they are behaving abominably all over the town."
"No. No, my dear friend," replied the other. "Set your mind at
rest, I implore you. We husbands are sometimes more suspicious
even than we should be. Crespigny cannot have taken your wife,
my dear fellow. I saw him only three months ago, back from Mar-
tinique and in hospital. He died a week later. Out there, their ex-
cesses are something formidable."
iH?fl£tttl!ttflHJf ??7? * ??7? t ffff f ffff f ?Tff f ffff f ff?f f f?ff f ffff f ffff t ff?f t ff?f f fTff t ffff f ffff f ff?f f ffff f ffff f fffT <
f^!tf^Uj^l!jj!!tj^!S AH, THE UNIVERSITY! ^^^^
JUST OUTSIDE OF LONDON THERE LIVED AN OLD FATHER WHO DEARLY
loved his only son. Accordingly, when the boy was a youngster of
some eighteen years, the old man sent for him and, with a benev-
olent glimmer of his horn-rimmed spectacles, said, "Well, Jack,
you are now done with preparatory school. No doubt you are look-
ing forward to going to the university."
"Yes, Dad, I am," said the son.
"You show good judgment," said the father. "The best years of
one's whole life are unquestionably those which are spent at the
university. Apart from the vast honeycomb of learning, the mellow
voices of the professors, the venerable gray buildings, and the
atmosphere of culture and refinement, there is the delight of being
in possession of a comfortable allowance."
"Yes, Dad," said the son.
"Rooms of one's own," continued the father, "little dinners to
one's friends, endless credit with the tradespeople, pipes, cigars,
claret, Burgundy, clothes."
"Yes, Dad," said the son.
"There are exclusive little clubs," said the old man, "all sorts of
sports, May Weeks, theatricals, balls, parties, rags, binges, scaling
of walls, dodging of proctors, fun of every conceivable description."
"Yes! Yes, Dad!" cried the son.
"Certainly nothing in the world is more delightful than being at
the university," said the father. "The springtime of life! Pleasure
after pleasure! The world seems a whole dozen of oysters, each
with a pearl in it. Ah, the university! However, I'm not going to
send you there."
"Then why the hell do you go on so about it?" said poor Jack.
"I did so in order that you might not think I was carelessly un-
derestimating the pleasures I must call upon you to renounce,"
said his father. "You see, Jack, my health is not of the best; noth-
ing but champagne agrees with me, and if I smoke a second-rate
Ah, the University [ 201 ]
cigar, I get a vile taste in my mouth. My expenses have mounted
abominably and I shall have very little to leave to you, yet my
dearest wish is to see you in a comfortable way of life.'*
"If that is your wish, you might gratify it by sending me to the
university," said Jack.
"We have to think of the future," said his father. "You will have
your living to earn. Unless you are content to be a schoolmaster or
a curate, you are not likely to gain any great advantage from the
"Then what am I to be?" the young man asked.
"I read only a little while ago," said his father, "the following
words, which flashed like sudden lightning upon the gloom in
which I was considering your future: 'Most players are weak.' The
words came from a little brochure upon the delightful and uni-
versally popular game of poker. It is a game which is played for
counters, commonly called chips, and each of these chips repre-
sents an agreeable sum of money."
"Do you mean that I am to be a card-sharper?" cried the son.
"Nothing of the sort," replied the old man promptly. "I am ask-
ing you to be strong, Jack. I am asking you to show initiative, in-
dividuality. Why learn what everyone else is learning? You, my
dear boy, shall be the first to study poker as systematically as
others study languages, science, mathematics, and so forth —
the first to tackle it as a student. I have set aside a cozy little
room with chair, table, and some completely new packs of
cards. A bookshelf contains several standard works on the game
and a portrait of Mr. Chamberlain hangs above the mantel-
The young man's protests were vain, so he set himself reluc-
tantly to study. He worked hard, mastered the books, wore the
spots off a dozen packs of cards, and at the end of the second year
he set out into the world with his father's blessing and enough cash
to sit in on a few games of penny ante.
After Jack left, the old man consoled himself with his glass of
champagne and his first-rate cigar and those other little pleasures
which are the solace of the old and the lonely. He was getting on
very well with these when one day the telephone rang. It was an
overseas call from Jack, whose very existence the old man had
 Ah, the University
"Hullo, Dad!" cried the son in tones of great excitement. "I'm
in Paris, sitting in on a game of poker with some Americans."
"Good luck to you," said the old man, preparing to hang up the
"Listen, Dad!" cried the son. "It's like this. Well — just for once
I'm playing without any limit."
"Lord have mercy on you!" said the old man.
"There's two of them still in," said the son. "They've raised me
fifty thousand dollars and I've already put up every cent I've got."
"I would rather," groaned the old man, "see a son of mine at
the university than in such a situation."
"But I've got four kings!" cried the young man.
"You can be sure the others have aces or straight flushes," said
the old man. "Back down, my poor boy. Go out and play for ciga-
rette ends with the habitues of your doss house."
"But listen, Dad!" cried the son. "This is a stud round. I've seen
an ace chucked in. I've seen tens and fives chucked in. There isn't
a straight flush possible."
"Is that so?" cried the old man. "Never let it be said I didn't
stand behind my boy. Hold everything. I'm coming to your assist-
The son went back to the card table and begged his opponents
to postpone matters until his father could arrive, and they, smiling
at their cards, were only too willing to oblige him.
A couple of hours later the old man arrived by plane at Le Bour-
get, and shortly thereafter, he was standing beside the card table,
rubbing his hands, smiling, affable, the light glinting merrily upon
his horn-rimmed spectacles. He shook hands with the Americans
and noted their prosperous appearances. "Now what have we
here?" said he, sliding into his son's seat and fishing out his money.
"The bet," said one of the opponents, "stands at fifty thousand
dollars. Seen by me. It's for you to see or raise."
"Or run," said the other.
"I trust my son's judgment," said the old man. "I shall raise fifty
thousand dollars before I even glance at these cards in my hand."
With that he pushed forward a hundred thousand dollars of his
"I'll raise that hundred thousand dollars," said the first of his
Ah, the University 
"I'll stay and see," said the other.
The old man looked at his cards. His face turned several colors
in rapid succession. A low and quavering groan burst from his lips
and he was seen to hesitate for a long time, showing all the signs of
an appalling inward struggle. At last he summoned up his courage
and, pushing out his last hundred thousand (which represented all
the cigars, champagne, and other little pleasures he had to look
forward to) , he licked his lips several times and said, "I'll see you."
"Four kings," said the first opponent, laying down his hand.
"Hell!" said the second. "Four queens."
"And I," moaned the old man, "have four knaves." With that he
turned about and seized his son by the lapels of his jacket, shaking
him as a terrier does a rat. "Curse the day," said he, "that I ever
became the father of a damned fool!"
"I swear I thought they were kings," cried the young man.
"Don't you know that the V is for valets?" said his father.
"Good God!" the son said. "I thought the V was something to
do with French kings. You know, Charles V and all those Louises.
Oh, what a pity I was never at the university!"
"Go," said the old man. "Go there, or go to hell or wherever you
wish. Never let me see or hear from you again." And he stamped
out of the room before his son or anyone else could say a word,
even to tell him it was high-low stud they were playing and that
the four knaves had won half the pot.
The young man, pocketing his share, mused that ignorance of
every sort is deplorable, and, bidding his companions farewell, left
Paris without further delay and very soon he was entered at the
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?Uf?fIVf^!jfiUtfjUjfj!ltf AFTER THE BALL ^r^r^j^S^
Which, if in hell no other paines there were,
Makes mee feare hell, because he must be there.
Dr. John Donne
when mr. dickinson put his hand down under the bed, to re-
trieve his fallen handkerchief, it was at once seized by another
hand, hairy and hard as iron, but, even as the nervous gentleman's
mild blood stood prickling in his veins, it was pressed, with un-
mistakable reverence and amity, to a pair of bristly lips.
"Oh!" thought Mr. Dickinson, and, withdrawing his hand, he
sat bolt upright, tense in every nerve, in the very middle of his
"Who's there?" he cried.
"Only me," said the fiend, who still crouched submissively be-
"Come out of that," said Mr. Dickinson at last, for he was
greatly reassured by the meek and piping tone of this answer. The
fiend bumped and scuffled out, and stood sheepishly on the
What an oaf! His voice had belied him. He was much the size
and shape of the largest gorilla, and his hulking body was covered
with a short, napless fur, like that of a nasty toy, cheap and gin-
gerish. This fur showed through the gaps in his costume, which
was infinitely too small for him, for he had stolen it, on his way
here, from a little curate half his size, the better to commend him-
self to Mr. Dickinson, who abhorred the nude.
A word as to the natures of these two, thus dramatically met at
midnight in the first-floor front bedroom of 10 Bosky n Road, N.
Dickinson, a bachelor in the best sense of that much abused
term, had led a stainless life. Surrounded by luxury, for he was a
cashier in one of our largest stores, he had never allowed luxury
After the Ball 
to lead him astray. His stamps tallied: his books, best nutriment
of commerce, were uncooked. The racecourse knew him not, the
bar and billiard saloon had offered their allure unavailingly. For
all that, he was no nincompoop who had never known temptation.
If the young ladies of the store withheld their hopeless coquetry,
awed by his Galahad eye, it was nevertheless his need daily to steel
himself against the gleaming and rounded battalions of beauty,
for the way to his desk lay through the corset department, and at
an hour when the simpering nymphs, still ungarbed, stood in all
the sweet shamelessness of their rosy wax. In his progress down
this Cytherean aisle, Mr. Dickinson's emotion was such that his
Adam's-apple might have lent a needed inspiration to the lift-boy,
but, swiftly as it leapt up to his very teeth, it always subsided, so
to speak, unbitten.
It was this experience of the dark god, or devil, within the
masculine blood-stream, that made our hero so enthusiastic a
murmurer of "Hear, hear!" at meetings of the Anti-Sunbathing
Association. His own pure flesh was, I am glad to say, never ex-
posed. Save where the veins ran like azure rivulets just beneath
the skin, it was white as a gardenia under the chaste and cosy
wool. His corns, though, were his martyrdom.
Enough of Dickinson. Who was the fiend?
He was, of all Hell's legions, the most calfish hobbledehoy,
stupid to such a degree that not even his bulk could gain him a
place in the least football team of the lowest division of the Infer-
nal League. There, where everyone plays, this spelt failure. Our
fiend, whose name was Tazreel, collected about him one-and-
twenty similar outcasts, and proposed that they should start a
club between themselves. Their objection was, that he was too
great a booby to be included, and that they had no ball. Let him
supply the second deficiency, they said, and they would overlook
the first. Nettled, he vowed to, and shambled off to the outer
playing-fields in the hope of cadging an old one. He saw a cousin
of his taking some practice shots with a battered Pope of the four-
teenth century, horribly burst asunder at the seams.
"Nick, Nick, what is that ball?"
"Black Mass, Tazreel, why do you stare at him?"
"Give him me. Give him me."
 After the Ball
His cousin described a couple of turns about Tazreel, dribbling
with tantalizing finesse.
"Get one for yourself," he said.
"I can't," cried Tazreel. "You know what sort of stuff they
serve out nowadays. Machine-made muck that busts up at the
second kick! I want one for a proper game. Give him me. Give him
"No." And the cousin netted the pontifical pillule.
"If you want a decent one," he said, "go and tempt a good
quality on earth. Yes, go and tempt Mr. Dickinson," he added
with a snigger, and scampered off after his game.
At that moment, from an adjacent pitch, the bemuddied and
leathern soul of Colonel Ingersoll hurtled through the air, and
struck Tazreel a stinger on the ear.
In his fury he sent the poor Colonel back in tremendous style.
"I should be a fine player if I got a chance," he murmured,
heartened by the success of his kick. "Damn itl I'll try for Dickin-
son. I can but fail."
This was madness. He told no one of what he was going to do,
for fear of mockery, for in that place they talked of Dickinson's
soul as office-boys do of a film-star: meat for their betters.
However, he breached up through the surface of the earth,
caught up the curate, disrobed him in mid-air, popped him through
the bishop's bedroom window, and next moment was under the
bed, waiting till Mr. Dickinson should reach down for his handker-
chief before switching off the light and settling himself to sleep.
Now he stood upon the hearth-rug, subserviently turning the
round hat in his hands.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" said Mr. Dickinson,
very much in a flutter again when he saw how extremely bulky
this apparent parson appeared.
The fiend fell upon his knees with a supplicating gesture.
"I want to make myself useful, sir," he mumbled. Mr. Dickin-
son experienced a spasm of genuine revulsion. It must be, he
thought, one of the unemployed, masquerading in a cast-off rig.
"Why don't you work?"
"It's like this, sir: I'm one of the fallen angels. Sir, I can prove
it. Look," and whisking round, he slightly adjusted his costume,
After the Ball 
and displayed to our astonished hero the convincing evidence of
"What's more, I'm repentant, sir," he continued, speaking, in
his eagerness, out from between his knees. "Yes, I want to make
good, to go straight in future. Oh boy! I want to be altogether
changed. But how?
" 'You go to Mr. Dickinson,' they told me. 'He's the only man
who can show you the right path. Be his disciple, serve him, clean
his boots, make him rich, any little thing. Take no wages, learn
from him: he'll show you what a decent, clean, wholesome, manly
life is,' they said."
"Who said?" asked Mr. Dickinson.
The fiend, with an expression of awe, jerked his thumb at the
"Indeed?" said Mr. Dickinson. "Did they?"
"Yessir. They think a lot of you. 'He's wasted,' they said, 'in his
manner of life. Go thou, extend his scope, and increase his good
works. Make him famous, envied, admired. Make the ladies love
"Oh!" said Mr. Dickinson. "I must think this over. I must go
into it thoroughly." He tapped his teeth importantly. "If I decide
to assist you," he said, "I'll let you know. Meanwhile I can't have
you about this place. Er . . . begone. Hi! And meet me," he added,
causing the fiend to reappear, more effectively than any servant
who opens the door again to catch a last instruction, "and meet
me on the Embankment by Battersea Bridge at seven to-morrow
With that the fiend vanished respectfully, and Mr. Dickinson
lay all of a tremble, excited, timorous, and bewildered.
It might be a trap. On the other hand, need he fear temptation?
He desired nothing that was not respectable. But if the fiend spoke
the truth, it might be a terrible responsibility, a nuisance. He
thought of his landlady. But then, if those above had laid this task
upon him, dared he refuse? Never shirk responsibility, that way
lies promotion, the success booklet was firm on this point. Besides,
the fellow might have powers: he might conjure him up a motor
car. Yes, with such a helper he might do anything: become the
xage at charity entertainments, a super-Maskelyne on the side of
 After the Ball
good. Why, he might enter sun-bathing establishments, and after
a long homily to the ribald nude he might, at a single flourish,
clothe them all in unremovable vests, permanent pants, non-dis-
placeable knickers, everlasting suits, and eternal petticoats and
gowns. His imagination soared, and he saw himself cleaning up the
whole big city. The prospect was intoxicating. How he wished to-
morrow evening was come: there were a hundred questions he
longed to ask.
He might, though, have dispensed quite easily with the interval,
for Tazreel had withdrawn only from the sight. He had lingered on
invisibly in the room to devour the recumbent Mr. Dickinson with
a loving and a burning gaze. He sat, picking his devilish great dog-
teeth, on the lower bed-rail.
In the cold morning light, ordinariness crowded in, and our hero
found his visions fade a little. They seemed fantastic, dangerous.
Every step that he took towards his daily work inclined him more
to shun such extravagant dreams, and continue to keep to his
straight, if extremely narrow, path.
"There's a catch in it somewhere," he said.
Alas, Mr. Dickinson! A spark of ambition still smoldered in his
breast, and as he entered the store, where it might have been
quenched for ever, it prompted him to a little action which un-
doubtedly changed the whole course of his life.
As he made his way up the aisle of immodest figures, it chanced
that one, portrayed by the modeller as in the act of bending to
draw on a non-existent stocking, had been backed right into his
"Outrageous!" cried Mr. Dickinson, thus roundly roused from
his reverie. And transferring his newspaper into his left hand, he
gave the shameless figure a well-deserved smack. But before that
real thrill, which always follows on a good act, had had time to
bathe him in its rosy glow, he saw with horror that he had been
too rough, too much the cave man. The bending figure shook on
its pedestal, and then, slowly, absurdly almost, toppled forward,
and lay prone upon the floor, utterly still.
"You clumsy fool," cried the deputy superintendent of bras-
sieres and suspender belts, emerging from behind an outsize figure.
"You've broken her nose."
After the Ball 
"I didn't break her nose," cried Mr. Dickinson. ("The floor did,"
he added to himself, for he was incapable of a lie.)
"You did. I saw you."
"I deny it."
"In flagrante delicto."
"Don't touch her, anyone," shouted the deputy superintendent.
"We'll have his finger-prints to prove it."
A debate ensued, and everyone was against Mr. Dickinson. Miss
Warble came forward and described the slap; Albert lift-boy, who
had also witnessed it, serving as interpreter when occasion re-
"Ugh!" said Miss Warble.
"Damn it, man!" said the manager, before them all, "I'd not
have thought it of you. It's not the damage; that can, and shall,
be made good out of your salary. But Wilfrid Dickinson a hypo-
crite! This is a great blow to me. In future your books shall be
specially checked. Who knows?"
"Oh dear!" said Mr. Dickinson.
"What's more, you shall be transferred to the ironmongery de-
"I resign," said Mr. Dickinson, bethinking himself of his power-
"Resign, and be damned!" thundered the manager.
A slight monitory tremor ran through our hero's veins at these
words. It was lost, though, in other tremors, those of rage, shame,
and resignation. He pouted, and withdrew.
Misunderstood! So ran the current of his thoughts during the
hours that followed. He wandered feverishly from tea-shop to
tea-shop, finding forgetfulness in none. Just before five he was
convulsed by a final spasm, and burst into a heavy perspiration.
"I forgive them," he said.
But, rage deserting him, he was still not at peace.
"To have misunderstood?" So ran the current of his thoughts
during the two hours before his appointment. Could his visitor
have been the agent of a cruel joke? He remembered the great
Thompkins hoax in the Baby-linen department in '27. A dastardly
 After the Ball
"Duped!" he cried, arriving at the bridge five minutes too early,
and finding no one awaiting him. "And I've thrown up my jobl
My job! My job!" In reiteration the word became a mere meaning-
less syllable. He could hardly believe that it connoted literally —
Soon, however, he saw the fiend approaching him, shambling
along at a good pace, and pausing only to take an occasional kick
at a stone. He was in a better fitting suit: he had in fact robbed
another, and a gigantic, clergyman.
"Late," said Mr. Dickinson pettishly, for his nerves were all
With infinite respect the fiend displayed to him a superb gold
watch, the hands of which exactly marked the hour.
"Accept it, sir," he said. "I spent my last penny on it, as a slight
mark of my affection and esteem. But pray, sir, may I venture to
hope. . . ."
"I have decided to give you a trial," said Mr. Dickinson, "pro-
vided, that is, you ... ah, your powers are satisfactory. Show me
some of your tricks. Change that match-box into a motor car."
"I cannot transform objects," said Tazreel, "nor in any way run
counter to the laws of nature. Only the big five can do that. But,"
he added, seeing Mr. Dickinson's look of disappointment, "I am
strong, I am swift, I can be invisible, and I enjoy excellent luck
at cards. This being so, you need not want for a motor car."
"Honest work, and plenty of it, is certainly your best help in
making good," said Mr. D. "Look to it that you use your powers
well, and I will apply their fruits in a way that will be to your
credit. What do you propose to do? I will not have you play cards.
You say you are swift. Perhaps you could run for prizes in the
"There's not much to be made that way," said the fiend. "If
only another of us had repented along of me, we could have gone
as front and back legs of a Derby winner."
"No racing," said Mr. Dickinson sternly. "Perhaps you could
put your strength to good use. A super-navvy on piecework,
"The Union would crush me," replied the fiend. "I might box."
"A manly sport," cried Mr. Dickinson, feeling his muscle. "You
shall become world's champion, and I will be your manager. Thus
After the Ball 
we will get money for good works, for the fact is, I am leaving my
present situation in order to devote myself to the administrative
"I was there when the row was on," said the fiend.
"Then you saw how I was treated."
"They certainly did you dirt. Say, let's muscle in in the morning
and clean that joint right up. Yeah?"
"No," said Mr. Dickinson. "I have forgiven them. However, I
might go in and try to make them see their vileness. You could be
at hand to stay any attempt at brutal violence. I trust there will
The fiend eyed his quarry in grudging admiration. He began to
appreciate his quality.
"It'll be a bit of practice," he said, "if I'm to start in as a pug."
"Streuth," he added, "I've just remembered I had a bit on the
three-thirty. Filly came in, too. 'Scuse me, boss, I'll nip off and
collar the polony. Then we'll have some eats."
"No," said Mr. Dickinson, "I have forbidden you horse-racing.
But stay — this was done before you heard my command. Perhaps
the money should not be allowed to rest in the hands of the book-
maker, or the unhappy man may get drunk and beat his wife.
That must be prevented at all costs. Go then, this once, and we
will break bread, and devote the rest to good works. Out of evil
cometh forth good! How much is it?"
"I stand to net five hundred," said the fiend.
"Good heavens! That will furnish our headquarters. Go then.
We will meet outside the Trocadero and take a frugal meal at the
It was a pleasant meal. Mr. Dickinson had oysters, to keep his
strength up for his future toil; turtle soup that he might know
what it was the Lord Mayor ate, and if it would be good for the
poor; a little turbot, and some Pol Roger, to which he made a
Canaean allusion; a grouse, for he had heard St. Francis was fond
of birds; a peach, just to taste one, and a little Bisquit du Bouchet
for his cold. The fiend had a whiting and a plate of cold beef or-
dered for him by his master, and, it must be admitted, a little
page-boy to whom he helped himself during a temporary with-
They discussed their plans. Next day a suitable suite for their
 After the Ball
headquarters was to be chosen, something very simple though of
a good address, furnished more like a home than an office, but with
a roll-top desk in it.
"I know the very place," said Tazreel: "it's just a modest sort
of flatette in Park Lane."
"Let it have a kitchenette for you to work in," said his master,
"and a miniature gymnasium for my exercises and your profes-
sional training. A little drawing-room, bijou dining-room, morn-
ing-room and that sort of thing for the necessary entertainment of
distinguished visitors, a tiny library for myself, the barest sleep-
ing accommodation, and if possible a weeny swimming-bath for
the encouragement of the suitably begarbed in pursuit of clean-
liness and health."
"Just the place I had in mind," said the fiend. "And at a rental
of only two hundred a week."
"Can you earn proportionately?" asked Mr. Dickinson, rather
"Sure thing!" was the reply.
"You may have some cheese if you like," said Mr. Dickinson.
Next morning they went early to the store, when Mr. Dickinson
rebuked his oppressors, who were, when they advanced to make
a savage attack on him, invisibly but severely restrained.
"Pick up that figure," said Mr. Dickinson, when they had fled
in pain and terror. He pointed to the disgraceful mannequin, who,
with her nose restored, still bent to tug the non-existent hose. "I
will have her in my room, where she will no longer lead people
astray. She will be a constant urge to effort."
Hastily clothing the figure in a cheap tailor-made, for which Mr.
Dickinson commanded his follower to leave the wholesale price on
the counter, they took it by the elbow and bore it off to a taxi, thus
presenting to the inquisitive crowd all the appearance of detectives
arresting a recalcitrant shoplifter.
Noonday found them installed in Park Lane. Mr. Dickinson
outlined to the fiend a routine of scrubbing and sweeping, waiting
at table, admitting visitors, tending the wardrobe, and acting as
secretary-chauffeur. He described exactly how he liked his break-
fast prepared. These little matters, he said, combined with the
practice and execution of a career as boxer, and with attendance
on himself when he went to rebuke the wicked, would keep Tazreel
After the Ball 
busy, and this would be half the battle toward regeneration. The
fiend sighed a little. He was brisk when put to it, but he was devil-
ishly lazy by nature, and when he contemplated, in addition to
all these tasks, the yet harder one of tempting his master, he almost
wished himself back on the desolate touch-lines of Hell.
However, he set to, and by laboring twenty-two hours out of
the twenty-four he managed to keep abreast of his duties. He was
greatly chagrined to find, though, when he entered on his pugilistic
programme, that the science of our British heavyweights was such
that not all his strength could bring him victory without a prelim-
inary tattoo of rabbit punches, nobs on the smelling bottle, rousers
on the cigar-trap, and cruel fibs in the bread basket. His claret was
tapped, shutters put up, ears thickened, grinders made to rock in
their sockets. Not only that, but, lest his tail should betray his
shameful origin when he was stripped for combat, Mr. Dickinson
insisted that he should be docked, and performed the operation
himself with a pair of garden shears, notched for branch cutting.
Altogether his lot was a miserable one. The worst of it was, that
as the months dragged by, Mr. Dickinson showed no signs of com-
mitting mortal sin within the meaning of the Act.
Sometimes, when he stood, with folded arms and reproachful,
penetrating gaze, on the threshold of a sun-bathing establishment
or night club, his sinister bodyguard would jerk a suggestive thumb
at some particularly shameless sylph or piquante dancer on a table,
and twitch meanwhile the corner of his mouth violently towards
his eye. A stern rebuke would immediately bring him to his senses.
He went to great trouble to introduce Mr. Dickinson into the
society of millionaires, that he might become covetous and mis-
appropriate the subscriptions that poured in. His master, return-
ing from a Babylonic week-end, told him that he had arranged
a slapstick part for him on the films, the salary of which was com-
mensurate with the incredible sufferings and exertions required.
He introduced a vile book into the covers of Mr. Dickinson's
Black Sheep Turned White. Mr. Dickinson told him to glance
through each new novel that came out, and to bring to him any-
thing similarly deserving of his public censure.
The fiend, hoping to scare him into a murderous panic, sent him
letters, apparently signed by a prominent fellow committee-man,
and declaring that he (the fiend) was in reality a notorious dancer
 After the Ball
named Lola de Montmorency, who had disappeared in unsavory
circumstances some time ago, now masquerading in male attire.
Exposure was threatened. "This must be the work of some prac-
tical joker," said Mr. Dickinson, glancing gravely at the super-
masculine countenance of his unattractive factotum.
That worthy then tried to persuade him to enter politics. Mr.
Dickinson pointed out that politicians were frequently compelled
to tell lies.
He described, in glowing terms, the pleasures of eastern mon-
archs. His master cut down his diet.
He earnestly sought the good man to consider enlarging his
influence by becoming King Wilfrid I. Mr. Dickinson pondered
the matter carefully, sighed, and said he feared the throne could
hardly become his by immaculate means. However, he instructed
the fiend to put in his spare time speaking at street corners on the
off-chance of bringing about a bloodless revolution.
The fiend, then, as if he had become raving mad, staggered in
with baskets of jewels which he said he had found; raised up Helen,
Cleopatra, all that lot; discoursed on witchcraft; transported the
good man to tops of mountains overlooking fine landscapes; sat up
in adjacent flats during his two hours' rest, pinching the babies to
make them cry; tried to scrape up an acquaintance for his master
among artists; wrote "Arise, Dickinson, first Emperor of the
World!" in phosphorus on his ceiling, and finally introduced him
to Mrs. Walker. All was of no avail.
Poor Tazreel grew as lean as a cat. He no longer took light-
hearted kicks at stones that lay in his path: he no longer sang at
his scrubbing and sweeping. He was a victim of overwork, nervous
depression, insomnia, fits of giddiness, spots before the eyes, back-
ache, bile, utter fatigue.
One day, as he was polishing Mr. Dickinson's brass-plate on the
front railings, a party of happier fiends passed by, who were doing
themselves well at the Dorchester, from which they were organi-
zing a mass temptation of the Y.M.C.A. They saw Tazreel, and
gave each other the nudge. Peals of laughter floated back from this
party of well-fed, easy-living, successful executives, and seared the
taut nerves of the poor plodding failure on the steps.
The fiend, hysterical with rage, rushed upstairs and broke the
waxen trophy in the bedroom.
After the Ball 
"You clumsy fool," said Mr. Dickinson, entering upon the crash.
'However, I forgive you. I'll get a stenographer."
"Your spelling is atrocious," he added.
"Your typing is slow.
"Your shorthand non-existent.
"It will give you time to get a weight-lifting job at one of the
Tazreel, at this last sentence, uttered a bitter cry. He felt the
ystem was blind, corrupt, utterly rotten, that allowed a man to
nislead a poor fiend into the hope of an hour or two's leisure, and
hen to sentence him to new toils, without incurring immediate
md eternal damnation. He began to feel that he never would be
ible to entrap Mr. Dickinson. There was no one to encourage him,
to one to advise, to sympathize, to care. That night the poor fel-
ow cried himself to sleep.
Two days later Maisie Williams sat at the old-fashioned type-
writer near the big roll-top desk. She was just a mere slip of a
hing, with big, almost frightened, blue eyes that darkened nearly
o black in moments of excitement. Maisie had had a hard time.
)he was alone in the world, and the manager at her last place had
>een a beast. It was with a sigh of real thankfulness that she sank
rito the pleasant atmosphere of the little library in Park Lane,
where a restful sense of luxury and beauty, for which her starved
oul craved, filled the air, and her employer seemed a regular simp.
That day Mr. Dickinson dictated an unusual number of letters.
Fea was served in the oak-panelled, book-lined room. Maisie could
iot repress a tiny girlish squeal of delight when she saw the de-
icious petits fours which accompanied the fragrant tea-pot.
"What a child you are!" said Mr. Dickinson kindly. "To squeal
ike that over a few cakes. My! What a noise you'd make if some-
>ne offered you a pearl necklace. It would be deafening."
"Not if it was a relation or a fiance," said Maisie simply. "But
r ou must not think me a child, Mr. Dickinson, for the fact is I very
eldom see any cakes. But really I seem to have been grown up
ver since I can remember: I've not had any proper childhood at
II, I mean. You see, my dear mother died when I was twelve. . . ."
Jut Maisie could not go on. She sat bravely blinking back the
ears from those big eyes, that seemed to have grown very helpless
nd very serious, and bright, and appealing, and wistful, and so on.
 After the Ball
"That's all right. That's all right," said Mr. Dickinson benevo
"It's so kind of you, Mr. Dickinson, to let me tell you all this.
"That's all right," said Mr. Dickinson. "Perhaps I am rather |
lonely person myself."
"I say, Mr. Butler, the boss is a pretty rich man, isn't he?" sai<
Maisie to Tazreel later on, when Mr. Dickinson had gone off h
"Yes'm, he sho is," replied that worthy, pretending to be
Maisie sat silent, thrilled. What a strange world it was, wher
a great big rich man could be lonely, just like her little insignifican
self. It seemed incredible: too good to be true. She thought of th
lion and the mouse.
Yet before a week had passed, Mr. Dickinson, as though th
species had become mixed, was calling her "kitten."
In a fortnight they were engaged.
Tazreel, when he heard the news, retired to his room, and dashet
his head several times against the wall. He was upset. Not beinj
a fiend of foresight, he saw nothing in this arrangement but th
prospect of two bosses instead of one. Besides, he was rather keei
on her himself. He felt utterly broken, and determined to resign
But as he approached the drawing-room door, he heard Maisi
say, in her high, clear, girlish voice, into which (so adaptable wa
she) there was already creeping a little of the authoritative torn
inevitable to her future high position:
"Wilf, when we're wed there's just one teeny little change
want to make, apart from refurnishing and taking over the res
of the house."
"My little Maisy-waisy shall never ask twice," replied the im
passioned Dickinson, "for anything that her Wilfywumkin cai
"I want you to have a proper staff of servants," said Maisie
"and shunt that tough-looking batman of yours right off the prem
ises. He looks at me in a way I don't like."
"I'll break every bone in his body," cried Mr. Dickinson warmly
"But yet — I think you must be mistaken, dear. He works for nexi
to no wages, and he's the most useful creature imaginable."
"If that's what you call love," said Maisie in a disappointec
After the Ball 
tone, "It's not what I do. Just like men: you promise a girl any-
thing just to get your way, and then let her down. I was only
testing you, but, thank goodness, I've found out in time."
"Not at all, my love," said Mr. Dickinson hastily. "I was only
playing. He shall go tomorrow."
"And where will the money come from then?" murmured the
listening fiend, catching cries of "Yum! yum!" and "Oh, honey!"
from within. He crept back to his little cubby-hole feeling faintly
cheered. At all events, there would be no more washing-up.
"In future," said Mr. D. to him next morning, "you are excused
all domestic duties. In fact, I don't expect you to be seen here at
all. If you come, appear to me only when I'm quite alone; do you
"O.K., chief," replied the fiend.
"That doesn't mean you're to be idle. On the contrary, you must
exert your earning powers to the utmost. The future Mrs. D. needs
beauty, she says. It would be downright selfishness to continue to
live in the frugal style of a hermit. So you'd better get some more
big contracts as soon as you can."
The honeymoon passed like a dream. Tazreel enjoyed it only
less than Mr. Dickinson. Left behind in London with nothing to at-
tend to but occasional cables demanding money, he neglected his
contracts, lived the life of a man about town, and replenished the
exchequer in a way that would have shocked his worthy master.
It was a great day when the domestics crowded into the hall
of Mr. Dickinson's little palace in Park Lane to welcome their
blushing master and his bride. Tazreel sat invisibly on the stairs,
pleased to see the glowing looks which the happy husband lavished
on his spouse, and still more pleased to see that two short months
in Venice had changed the modest, self-effacing typist into a great
lady, in no way unfitted to grace the mansion her adoring partner
had prepared for her.
"Why, Wilf," she cried, "this hall looks cramped to me after the
Splendide. Can't you widen it somehow? I don't want Society to
say I squeeze it to death."
"It would mean taking the house next door, to make this hall
any wider," said Mr. Dickinson with a smile.
"Well, take it then," replied his consort, who was a little frayed
 After the Ball
by the journey. "You're a man, aren't you? Or aren't you? You
got to prove it some way, you know."
"Ssh, my dear," murmured her consort. "The servants will hear
you." And he ushered her into the principal drawing-room, from
whence the sounds of billing and cooing floated out to the fiend's
"You must earn fifty thousand before the end of the month,"
said Mr. Dickinson to him, at their next interview.
"I'll try, boss," he replied. "But money's not so easy in these
days. Still, I think I know a way."
"What's that?" said Mr. Dickinson. "But spare me the details.
We've a great deal of work to discuss. The organization will have
to be modified."
A little while later he summoned the fiend again.
"What was that I asked you for, before the end of the month?"
"Fifty thousand," said Tazreel.
"What, only that? I must be losing my memory. I shall need a
hundred and fifty at the least. Be sure you don't let me down."
"I doubt I can come by it honestly," said Tazreel, pulling a
"What's that?" cried his master. "You, an ex-fiend, to talk to
me in that way! I hope you do not think I would command you to
do anything dishonest. Get it, I say, and don't let me hear an-
other word about it. Put the money on my table next week with-
out fail, or I cast you off, and back you go to Hell for ever."
Tazreel asked nothing much better than this, provided he could
only take Mr. Dickinson with him. He half thought of getting him
to compromise himself over the money, but feared he might slip
off the hook; besides, theft by proxy is a matter for trial, and
the field wanted immediate possession of his booty.
He saw, in his invisible visits to their menage, that Mrs. Dickin-
son, though in all other respects the worthiest young woman in
the world, had been starved of beauty so long that her appetite
for it was tremendous. She was also a little ambitious to cut a
figure among the smart set, and showed signs of not being so pas-
sionately enamored of her husband as he was of her.
In short, the besotted wretch was constantly bothering Tazreel
for money, and no longer showing any interest in how it was come
by. The fortunate devil, now restored to cheerfulness, did no work
After the Ball 
except a few cracksman's jobs, which were child's play, and, keep-
ing half the proceeds for himself, you may be sure he had a jolly
little bachelor establishment round the corner in Mount Street,
played pranks all over the town, and heartily commiserated his
fellows at the Dorchester on the embarrassment they must feel on
being seen with their young victims in public.
"I married mine off six months ago," he said. "He is already
in debt to the tune of a half a million, and soon will sign his name
to anything for further supplies. That's nothing, however: wait
till he becomes jealous. My only trouble then will be to prevent
him damning himself so completely off his own bat as to be put up
for raffle, it being said that I had no hand in it. Fear nothing,
though; I shall be watchful to prevent that disaster."
As a matter of fact, Mr. Dickinson very soon paid a visit to the
fiend's snug little place in Mount Street. He was so broken down
by love and his wife's tantrums that he no longer summoned him
as before, but would ring at his door quite humbly after dinner,
and ask the butler if Mr. Tazreel could possibly spare him a few
minutes on a matter of importance. Generally it was money he
was wanting: this time, after a good deal of beating about the
bush, he asked Tazreel if he could do anything for him in the way
of a love philter.
"What?" cried the fiend, pretending astonishment. "Do you
find yourself insufficiently enraptured by such beauty, charm,
and talent as your wife has, that you'd resort to such means of
being awakened to it?"
"No, indeed," said the poor fellow. "Her virtues are plain
enough, but so also is the fact that she is a little impatient when
I fail to come up to the high standard her fine taste demands. In
short, I would have her a little more in love with me, that she
might overlook my blemishes, without my having to gild them to
the ruinous extent I do. Besides, if I don't become more attractive
in her eyes, I can't help feeling (it's probably only my fancy) that
I may find an intruder in the house: a home- wrecker, I mean."
The fiend, though knowing perfectly well there had been one
of that sort hanging about for the last month, chose not to men-
tion it, nor did he give him any sort of warning, but only the
philter: the consequence was, that in a very short time there was
not one home-wrecker in Park Lane, but at least ten.
 After the Ball
When there are ten, a suspicious, prying husband, such as Mr.
Dickinson had become, generally gets wind of one of them sooner
or later. One night the unhappy man broke in upon the fiend's
ease: he was in a terrible state.
"Ask me no questions," he said, "but tell me, have you any-
thing that will undo the effects of that cursed love philter you
gave me? It's all because of that, I'm sure."
"Love," replied the fiend, "is, as you yourself should know, a
very tricky passion. In cases like your wife's, what lies in the
power of any poor devil to arouse, is often such as the Prince of
Darkness himself could not quell. I fear, my dear Dickinson, that
we shall have to resort to * witchcraft.' "
"Heaven forbid!" cried the distracted wretch, piteously.
"Why, as to that, it does," replied the sardonic fiend.
"All I want is something in a bottle," moaned his victim.
"Come, Dickinson," said the fiend, with an abominable brisk-
ness, "it's time to be honest with yourself, to play the man. You
can't just accept my help and shut your eyes to the measures I
have to take on your behalf, as you've been doing over money
matters, for example, for the last six months."
"What? Do you mean to say the money was not come by hon-
estly?" cried the poor fool, in affright. "Good gracious, and I
needed another forty thousand this very evening. I must have it,
too. Maisie says she must have a tiara: she finds the place
"Tell her to get it from young what's-his-name," was the sly
"Don't madden me."
"Well, here's the money. It came from a late bank messenger,
who is getting later every minute, and who will never arrive. Take
it. All the rest was come by in much the same way. This little bit
won't make any difference."
"After all, it's not for a selfish motive," murmured Mr. Dickin-
son. "I can't have Maisie getting a cold in the head, can I?"
"No," said the fiend, with a smile.
"Now about this witchcraft," he continued. "You'd better make
up your mind quickly. Every minute you hesitate, you're leaving
your wife alone. And, as you know, she's very highly strung."
"Oh dear, what have I to do?"
After the Ball 
"Oh, just kill a white goat. That's nothing. Butchers do it every
day. And gabble a few words after me. What's there in that, eh?"
"After all, I can always repent," said Mr. Dickinson tremu-
"Yes . . . always," said the fiend.
He gave Mr. Dickinson a stiff brandy and soda, and excused
himself for a moment, to fetch the goat, he said. Actually, he took
advantage of his withdrawal to telephone to Park Lane, to say
that Mr. Dickinson was unexpectedly detained and could not re-
turn before morning.
He then went back, leading in a poor old nanny, whom his dupe
despatched amid a positive blaze of Bengal Lights, provided gratis
by the fiend. After an hour or two spent in such jiggery-pokery,
our hero found himself in possession of a phial which contained no
less than half a gill of tap water.
"Now, I suppose, I'm what you might call a lost soul," he said,
trembling like a blancmange.
"/ wouldn't call you such," said the fiend.
"No, of course I can repent."
"You'd better wait till you've administered that," remarked
Tazreel, indicating the phial. "Or it would be as useless as tap
"All right, I don't repent then. He! he!"
"Spoken like a man! I'll stroll round with you. Here! Take the
knife as a little memento."
They walked round in silence through the pleasant night air.
When they reached Mr. Dickinson's door:
"I'll just come in and have a drink," said Tazreel.
"Better not, old chap. Maisie doesn't appreciate you."
"Oh, don't worry about the missus. She's in bed. See, there's no
lights at all down below."
They entered the hall.
"Nice hat," said the fiend carelessly, picking up a topper from
the table. "Yours?"
". . . NO."
"Why, that's certainly the low-down," said the fiend, Capone-
ishly. "Just while you were jeopardizing your soul for her sake —
"Oh! Oh! Oh!"
 After the Ball
"Dickinson, show yourself a man," said the fiend sternly. "You
are a man, aren't you? Or aren't you?" He imitated Maisie's voice
"Oh! Oh! Oh!"
"You got that knife," shouted the fiend fiendishly. "Come on!
I'll hold 'em down."
They rushed up the stairs. Mr. Dickinson applied his ear to the
door; the fiend silently opened the door of the lift shaft. They
burst into the bedroom; there were screams, and the deed was
done. Mr. Dickinson, with a cry of horror, flung down the fatal
blade and turned and bolted out of the room. The fiend followed,
tripped him up on the landing, stooped like a hawk after his fall-
ing body as he toppled down the lift shaft, nabbed his soul as it
popped out, and, with one tremendous kick, landed it favorably
into the line-up of Tazreel's United, and in a moment the game
was in full swing.
jHWSjj!^^ HELL HA TH NO FUR Y ^^S^
AS SOON AS EINSTEIN DECLARED THAT SPACE WAS FINITE, THE PRICE
of building sites, both in Heaven and Hell, soared outrageously. A
number of petty fiends who had been living in snug squalor in the
remoter infernal provinces, found themselves evicted from their
sorry slacks, and had not the wherewithal to buy fresh plots at
the new prices. There was nothing for it but to emigrate: they
scattered themselves over the various habitable planets of our
universe; one of them arrived in London at about the hour of
midnight in the October of last year.
Some angels in like case took similar measures, and by a coinci-
dence one of them descended at the same hour into the same north-
Beings of this order, when they take on the appearance of hu-
mans, have the privilege of assuming whichever sex they choose.
Things being as they are, and both angels and devils knowing very
well what's what, both of them decided to become young women
of about the age of twenty-one. The fiend, as soon as he touched
earth, was no other than Bella Kimberly, a brunette, and the angel
became the equally beautiful Eva Anderson, a blonde.
By the essential limitation of their natures, it is impossible for
an angel to recognize fiendishness on beholding it, and equally so
for a fiend even to conceive the existence of angelic virtue. As a
matter of fact, at such a meeting as now took place in Lowndes
Crescent, St. John's Wood, the angel is innocently attracted by
what seems to her the superior strength and intensity of the
fiendish nature, while the devil experiences that delicious interest
that one feels in a lamb cutlet odorous upon the grill.
The two girls accosted one another, and each asked if the other
knew of a suitable lodging-house in the neighborhood. The simi-
larity of their need caused them first to laugh heartily, and then
to agree to become room-mates and companions of fortune. Bella
suggested that it was perhaps too late to make respectable appli-
cation for a lodging, therefore they spent the night strolling on
Hampstead Heath, talking of how they would earn their livings,
and of what fun they would have together, and of love, and then
of breakfast, which is not an unnatural sequel.
Hell Hath No Fury 
They had some poached eggs in the little Express Dairy in
Heath Street, and afterwards found a pleasant room on the third
floor of an apartment house in Upper Park Road. Then they went
out in search of employment: Bella was soon taken on as a danc-
ing instructress, and Eva, with a little more difficulty, secured a
situation as harpist in a cinema orchestra.
One they were settled thus, they began to enjoy themselves as
girls do, chattering and giggling at all hours. It is true that some of
the things Bella said made Eva blush from the crown of her head
to the soles of her feet, but she already loved her dark friend, and
found her daring humor quite irresistible. They made amicable
division of the chest of drawers, and shared the same bed, which
no one thought was extraordinary, nor would if they had known
them in their true characters, for nothing is more common than to
find a fiend and an angel between the same pair of sheets, and if
it was otherwise life would be hellishly dull for some of us.
Now there was living in this apartment house a young man
scarcely older than Bella and Eva, who was studying to become
an architect, and who had never known love, nor been put off for
long by any imitation. His name was Harry Pettigrew, and his
hair was a very medium color, neither too dark nor too fair.
His means were very limited, and his room was on the topmost
floor, but not so far above that inhabited by the two girls but he
could hear their delicious giggling at that still hour when he should
have been at his latest studies. He longed to go down and tap at
their door and ask them what the joke was, but he was too shy.
However, when three such young people are in the same house,
it is not long before they become acquainted: on one occasion
Bella forgot to lock the bathroom door, and the reason for this
must have been that in Hell there are no baths, and hence no
bathrooms, and consequently no bathroom doors.
It was a Sunday; the young man himself was descending in a
dressing-gown: there was a delicious little contretemps, in which,
fortunately, he saw no more than any decent young man would
wish to see. All the same, he retreated in great confusion, for he
had no notion of the wishes of decent young women. His confu-
sion was so extreme, that he counted neither stairs nor landings
in ascending, and, flinging open a door which he took to be his
own, he discovered Eva in the third position of Muller's exercise
for the abdominal muscles, and in nothing else at all.
 Hell Hath No Fury
Now angels, as every man knows, are, by virtue of their very
innocence, or the simplicity of the celestial costume, sometimes
far less conventionally modest than the squeakers of the darker
sisterhood. Eva hastily but without panic threw a wrap about her
shoulders: "You look quite upset," she said. "There is no reason
to be upset. Did you want anything?"
"No . . " he said, "... I did not. In fact I came in by mis-
take. It is nice of you not to scream or be angry with me."
They exchanged one or two more little civilities. In the end,
Harry was emboldened to suggest a walk on the Heath. Before
Eva could reply, Bella entered, and, not seeing him there, she
burst out, with a giggle, "Whatever do you think happened to
me?" Then, catching sight of him, she subsided into a confusion
This took off a little from the exquisite naturalness of the other
encounter, a service for which Harry was not as grateful as he
might have been, had he known to what a quarter, and from
what a quarter, his fancy was being inclined. The truth is, that
where a fiend and an angel, both in female form, are seen by the
same young man, in precisely the same illuminating circumstances,
he will, fifty or fifty-five times out of a hundred, choose the angel,
if he is a nice young man, and if he has time enough.
Therefore, when they were all three on Hampstead Heath that
afternoon, Harry addressed Bella with very pleasant words, but
with words only, while to Eva he accorded certain looks as well.
Bella was not very slow at putting two and two together. She
had been looking forward to a long period of mortal sin with this
attractive young man, and to flying off with his soul afterwards.
The soul of an architect, especially if he is of strong Palladian
tendencies, is well worth a handsome villa, standing in two or
three acres of well-laid-out grounds, in the most desirable resi-
dential quarter of Hell. You imagine this homeless fiend's mor-
tification, against which could have been measured the fury
of the woman scorned, since they were here resident in the same
She saw every day that Harry was growing fonder of her blonde
companion, and conceived the idea of adding a fourth to their
party, in the shape of a young man nearly as swarthy as herself,
whom she had met at the dancing-hall, and with whom she was
already quite sufficiently familiar.
Hell Hath No Fury 
She represented to him that Eva was likely to inherit a large
sum of money. This, and her blonde locks and guileless air, were
quite enough for Master Dago, and all he asked was opportunity
to come at her.
"It's no good just trying to do the sheik," said Bella, "for she's
already soft and soppy on Harry Pettigrew, who should be my
boy friend by rights. What you want, is to give him the idea she
lets you: that'll make him sheer off quick enough, if I know his
lordship." It will be observed that Bella's speech was vulgar in
the extreme: this is a very usual deficiency of fiends.
Her dancing-partner, whom she had made well acquainted with
the stings of jealousy, soon found means to introduce them to
Harry. For example, on one Sunday when they were all walking
in the sylvan shades of Ken Wood, he had Bella fall behind with
Harry on some pretext or other, and when he and Eva had gone
ahead a turn or two of the winding pathway, he put his arm be-
hind her, without touching her in the least (or he would have had
a severe rebuke) , but so that it should appear to Harry, when he
rounded the bend, that his hastily withdrawn arm had been about
her consenting waist.
Not only this, but he once or twice made a sudden movement,
and appeared flustered, when Harry entered a room in which he
and Eva had been left alone by his accomplice. He was not above
making, when he heard his rival's step outside the door, a little
kissing sound with his perjured lips. On one occasion, when Bella
was away for the week-end, he went so far as to throw a sock in
at Eva's window.
Here he overreached himself. Harry, returning with Eva from
a walk, was so overcome by the sight of this sock that he could no
longer suffer in silence, but, first of all asking (as it were care-
lessly) whose sock that could be, he soon burst out with all the
accumulated suspicions of the past few weeks, and had the in-
finite pleasure of hearing them denied frankly, emphatically, un-
mistakably and, above all, angelically.
A pretty little scene ensued, in which they discovered that their
love partook of the nature of perfection. In fact, the only at-
tribute that was wanting was completeness, which is recognized
as being an essential by many of the ancient philosophers, several
of the fathers of the Church, and by all young lovers. It is the na-
ture of men to strive after perfection, and of angels to attain it:
[2S0] Hell Hath No Fury
our young pair were true to type, and, after a little amicable dis-
cussion, it was agreed that they should endeavor to realize per-
fection in Eva's room that very night, when all the house was
asleep. If perfection itself is insufficient for the censorious, such
are reminded that in Heaven there is no marrying or giving in
marriage, and among architectural students very little.
Now it so happened that Bella had returned that very after-
noon, and had gone into conference with her accomplice to devise
some bold stroke by which they might each achieve their impa-
tient ends. At last they agreed on the boldest of all: Bella that
very night was to visit Harry in his bedroom, and the swarthy
dancing-man was to play the Tarquin in Eva's.
That night, at about the middle hour, they repaired to Hamp-
stead. It was as black as pitch, no moon, a mist over the stars; no
lights in the lodgers' rooms, for they were all asleep; no light in
Harry's, because he was not there; no light in Eva's, because he
Bella, not knowing this, goes up to the top, finds him absent,
and gets into his bed by way of a little surprise for him when he
The dancing-man, making his entry a little later, gropes his way
up the stairs, and, stopping at Eva's door, hears a murmuring
within, which is in fact our young pair expressing to one another
their great admiration of the perfection of perfection. He con-
cludes he is a flight too low, goes higher, opens the door of Harry's
room, and, all in the dark, seizes upon the waiting Bella, who, in
high delight at his enthusiasm, lets down a losing battle in a very
Several hours passed, in which the good enjoyed that happiness
which is the reward of virtue, and the wicked that illusion of it
that is the consolation of vice.
In the first grey of dawn, our good Harry made a very pretty
speech of thanks to his charmer, in which he told her that she was
an angel and had transported him to Heaven itself.
Bella and her companion, on the other hand, damned one an-
other with more heat than grace. They were sufficiently realistic,
however, to agree that a good illusion is better than nothing at
all, and they resolved to perpetuate their error by seeking it in an
eternity of darknesses, but at this, I believe, they were not par-
!!K!JK!J!^^ GREEN THOUGHTS ^)^^^^
"Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade"
the orchid had been sent among the effects of his friend,
who had come by a lonely and mysterious death on the expedi-
tion. Or he had bought it among a miscellaneous lot, "unclassi-
fied," at the close of the auction. I forget which, but one or the
other it certainly was; moreover, even in its dry, brown, dormant
root state, this orchid had a certain sinister quality. It looked,
with its bunched and ragged projections, like a rigid yet a grip-
ping hand, hideously gnarled, or a grotesquely whiskered, threat-
ening face. Would you not have known what sort of an orchid it
Mr. Mannering did not know. He read nothing but catalogues
and books on fertilizers. He unpacked the new acquisition with a
solicitude absurd enough in any case toward any orchid, or prim-
rose either, in the twentieth century, but idiotic, foolhardy, doom-
eager, when extended to an orchid thus come by, in appearance
thus. And in his traditional obtuseness he at once planted it in
what he called the "Observation Ward," a hothouse built against
the south wall of his dumpy red dwelling. Here he set always the
most interesting additions to his collection, and especially weak
and sickly plants, for there was a glass door in his study wall
through which he could see into this hothouse, so that the weak
and sickly plants could encounter no crisis without his immediate
knowledge and his tender care.
This plant, however, proved hardy enough. At the ends of thick
and stringy stalks it opened out bunches of darkly shining leaves,
and soon it spread in every direction, usurping so much space that
first one, then another, then all its neighbors had to be removed
to a hothouse at the end of the garden. It was, Cousin Jane said,
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a regular hop-vine. At the ends of the stalks, just before the leaves
began, were set groups of tendrils, which hung idly, serving no
apparent purpose. Mr. Mannering thought that very probably
these were vestigial organs, a heritage from some period when the
plant had been a climber. But when were the vestigial tendrils of
an ex-climber half or quarter so thick and strong?
After a long time sets of tiny buds appeared here and there
among the extravagant foliage. Soon they opened into small
flowers, miserable little things: they looked like flies' heads. One
naturally expects a large, garish, sinister bloom, like a sea ane-
mone, or a Chinese lantern, or a hippopotamus yawning, on any
important orchid; and should it be an unclassified one as well, I
think one has every right to insist on a sickly and overpowering
scent into the bargain.
Mr. Mannering did not mind at all. Indeed, apart from his joy
and happiness in being the discoverer and godfather of a new sort
of orchid, he felt only a mild and scientific interest in the fact that
the paltry blossoms were so very much like flies' heads. Could it
be to attract other flies for food or as fertilizers? But then, why
like their heads?
It was a few days later that Cousin Jane's cat disappeared.
This was a great blow to Cousin Jane, but Mr. Mannering was
not, in his heart of hearts, greatly sorry. He was not fond of the
cat, for he could not open the smallest chink in a glass roof for
ventilation but the creature would squeeze through somehow to
enjoy the warmth, and in this way it had broken many a tender
shoot. But before poor Cousin Jane had lamented two days some-
thing happened which so engrossed Mr. Mannering that he had
no mind left at all with which to sympathize with her affliction,
or to make at breakfast kind and hypocritical inquiries after the
lost cat. A strange new bud appeared on the orchid. It was clearly
evident that there would be two quite different sorts of bloom on
this one plant, as sometimes happens in such fantastic corners of
the vegetable world, and that the new flower would be very dif-
ferent in size and structure from the earlier ones. It grew bigger
and bigger, till it was as big as one's fist.
And just then — it could never have been more inopportune —
an affair of the most unpleasant, the most distressing nature sum-
moned Mr. Mannering to town. It was his wretched nephew, in
[2S4] Green Thoughts
trouble again, and this time so deeply and so very disgracefully
that it took all Mr. Mannering's generosity, and all his influence
too, to extricate the worthless young man. Indeed, as soon as he
saw the state of affairs, he told the prodigal that this was the very
last time he might expect assistance, that his vices and his ingrati-
tude had long cancelled all affection between them, and that for
this last helping hand he was indebted only to his mother's mem-
ory, and to no faith on the part of his uncle either in his repentance
or his reformation. He wrote, moreover, to Cousin Jane, to relieve
his feelings, telling her of the whole business, and adding that the
only thing left to do was to cut the young man off entirely.
When he got back to Torquay, Cousin Jane had disappeared.
The situation was extremely annoying. Their only servant was a
cook who was very old and very stupid and very deaf. She suf-
fered besides from an obsession, owing to the fact that for many
years Mr. Mannering had had no conversation with her in which
he had not included an impressive reminder that she must always,
no matter what might happen, keep the big kitchen stove up to a
certain pitch of activity. For this stove, besides supplying the
house with hot water, heated the pipes in the "Observation Ward,"
to which the daily gardener who had charge of the other hot-
houses had no access. By this time she had come to regard her
duties as stoker as her chief raison d'etre, and it was difficult to
penetrate her deafness with any question which her stupidity and
her obsession did not somehow transmute into an inquiry after
the stove, and this, of course, was especially the case when Mr.
Mannering spoke to her. All he could disentangle was what she
had volunteered on first seeing him, that his cousin had not been
seen for three days, that she had left without saying a word. Mr.
Mannering was perplexed and annoyed, but, being a man of
method, he thought it best to postpone further inquiries until he
had refreshed himself a little after his long and tiring journey. A
full supply of energy was necessary to extract any information
from the old cook; besides, there was probably a note somewhere.
It was only natural that before he went to his room Mr. Man-
nering should peep into the hothouse, just to make sure that the
wonderful orchid had come to no harm during the inconsiderate
absence of Cousin Jane. As soon as he opened the door his eyes
fell upon the bud; it had now changed in shape very considerably,
Green Thoughts 
and had increased in size to the bigness of a human head. It is no
exaggeration to state that Mr. Mannering remained rooted to the
spot, with his eyes fixed upon this wonderful bud, for fully five
But, you will ask, why did he not see her clothes on the floor?
Well, as a matter of fact (it is a delicate point) , there were no
clothes on the floor. Cousin Jane, though of course she was en-
tirely estimable in every respect, though she was well over forty,
too, was given to the practice of the very latest ideas on the dual
culture of the soul and body — Swedish, German, neo-Greek, and
all that. And the orchid-house was the warmest place available.
I must proceed with the order of events.
Mr. Mannering at length withdrew his eyes from this stupen-
dous bud and decided that he must devote his attention to the
grey exigencies of everyday life. But although his body dutifully
ascended the stairs, heart, mind, and soul all remained in adora-
tion of the plant. Although he was philosophical to the point of
insensibility over the miserable smallness of the earlier flowers,
yet he was now as much gratified by the magnitude of the great
new bud as you or I might be. Hence it was not unnatural that
Mr. Mannering while in his bath should be full of the most ex-
alted visions of the blossoming of his heart's darling, his vegetable
godchild. It would be the largest known, by far; complex as a
dream, or dazzlingly simple. It would open like a dancer, or like
the sun rising. Why, it might be opening at this very moment!
Mr. Mannering could restrain himself no longer; he rose from the
steamy water, and, wrapping his bath-towel robe about him, hur-
ried down to the hothouse, scarcely staying to dry himself, though
he was subject to colds.
The bud had not yet opened: it still reared its unbroken head
among the glossy, fleshy foliage, and he now saw, what he had
had no eyes for previously, how very exuberant that foliage had
grown. Suddenly he realized with astonishment that this huge
bud was not that which had appeared before he went away. That
one had been lower down on the plant. Where was it now, then?
Why, this new thrust and spread of foliage concealed it from him.
He walked across, and discovered it. It had opened into a bloom.
And as he looked at this bloom his astonishment grew to stupe-
faction, one might say to petrification, for it is a fact that Mr.
 Green Thoughts
Mannering remained rooted to the spot, with his eyes fixed on
the flower, for fully fifteen minutes. The flower was an exact
replica of the head of Cousin Jane's lost cat. The similitude was
so exact, so lifelike, that Mr. Mannering's first movement, after
the fifteen minutes, was to seize his bath-towel robe and draw it
about him, for he was a modest man, and the cat, though bought
for a Tom, had proved to be quite the reverse. I relate this to
show how much character, spirit, presence — call it what you will
— there was upon this floral cat's face. But although he made to
seize his bath-towel robe, it was too late. He could not move. The
new lusty foliage had closed in unperceived, the too lightly dis-
missed tendrils were everywhere upon him; he gave a few weak
cries and sank to the ground, and there, as the Mr. Mannering of
ordinary life, he passes out of this story.
Mr. Mannering sank into a coma, into an insensibility so deep
that a black eternity passed before the first faint elements of his
consciousness reassembled themselves in his brain. For of his brain
was the center of a new bud being made. Indeed, it was two or
three days before this at first almost shapeless and quite primi-
tive lump of organic matter had become sufficiently mature to be
called Mr. Mannering at all. These days, which passed quickly
enough, in a certain mild, not unpleasant excitement, in the outer
world, seemed to the dimly working mind within the bud to re-
sume the whole history of the development of our species, in a
great many epochal parts.
A process analogous to the mutations of the embryo was being
enacted here. At last the entity which was thus being rushed
down an absurdly foreshortened vista of the ages arrived, slowing
up, into the foreground. It became recognizable. The Seven Ages
of Mr. Mannering were presented, as it were, in a series of close-
ups, as in an educational film; his consciousness settled and
cleared. The bud was mature, ready to open. At this point, I be-
lieve, Mr. Mannering's state of mind was exactly that of a patient
who, wakening from under an anaesthetic, struggling up from
vague dreams, asks plaintively, "Where am I?" Then the bud
opened, and he knew.
There was the hothouse, but seen from an unfamiliar angle.
There, through the glass door, was his study. There below him
Green Thoughts 
was the cat's head and there — there beside him was Cousin Jane.
He could not say a word, but then, neither could she. Perhaps it
was as well. At the very least, he would have been forced to own
that she had been in the right in an argument of long standing;
she had always maintained that in the end no good would come of
his preoccupation with "those unnatural flowers."
It must be admitted that Mr. Mannering was not at first greatly
upset by this extraordinary upheaval in his daily life. This, I
think, was because he was interested, not only in private and per-
sonal matters, but in the wider and more general, one might say
the biological, aspects of his metamorphosis. For the rest, simply
because he was now a vegetable, he responded with a vegetable
reaction. The impossibility of locomotion, for example, did not
trouble him in the least, or even the absence of body and limbs,
any more than the cessation of that stream of rashers and tea,
biscuits and glasses of milk, luncheon cutlets, and so forth, that
had flowed in at his mouth for over fifty years, but which had
now been reversed to a gentle, continuous, scarcely noticeable
feeding from below. All the powerful influence of the physical
upon the mental, therefore, inclined him to tranquillity. But the
physical is not all. Although no longer a man, he was still Mr.
Mannering. And from this anomaly, as soon as his scientific in-
terest had subsided, issued a host of woes, mainly subjective in
He was fretted, for instance, by the thought that he would now
have no opportunity to name his orchid, or to write a paper upon
it, and, still worse, there grew up in his mind the abominable con-
viction that, as soon as his plight was discovered, it was he who
would be named and classified, and that he himself would be the
subject of a paper, possibly even of comment and criticism in the
lay press. Like all orchid collectors, he was excessively shy and
sensitive, and in his present situation these qualities were very
naturally exaggerated, so that the bare idea of such attentions
brought him to the verge of wilting. Worse yet was the fear of
being transplanted, thrust into some unfamiliar, draughty, proba-
bly public place. Being dug up! Ugh! A violent shudder pulsated
through all the heavy foliage that sprang from Mr. Mannering's
division of the plant. He awoke to consciousness of ghostly and
 Green Thoughts
remote sensations in the stem below, and in certain tufts of leaves
that sprouted from it; they were somehow reminiscent of spine
and heart and limbs. He felt quite a dryad.
In spite of all, however, the sunshine was very pleasant. The
rich odor of hot, spicy earth filled the hothouse. From a special
fixture on the hot-water pipes a little warm steam oozed into the
air. Mr. Mannering began to abandon himself to a feeling of
laissez-aller. Just then, up in a corner of the glass roof, at the ven-
tilator, he heard a persistent buzzing. Soon the note changed from
one of irritation to a more complacent sound; a bee had managed
to find his way after some difficulty through one of the tiny chinks
in the metal work. The visitor came drifting down and down
through the still, green air, as if into some subaqueous world, and
he came to rest on one of those petals which were Mr. Manner-
ing's eyebrows. Thence he commenced to explore one feature after
another, and at last he settled heavily on the lower lip, which
drooped under his weight and allowed him to crawl right into Mr.
Mannering's 'mouth. This was quite a considerable shock, of
course, but on the whole the sensation was neither as alarming nor
as unpleasant as might have been expected; indeed, strange as it
may sound, the appropriate word seemed to be something like —
But Mr. Mannering soon ceased his drowsy toyings with the
mot juste when he saw the departed bee, after one or two lazy
circlings, settle directly upon the maiden lip of Cousin Jane. Omi-
nous as lightning, a simple botanical principle flashed across the
mind of her wretched relative. Cousin Jane was aware of it also,
although, being a product of an earlier age, she might have re-
mained still blessedly ignorant had not her cousin — vain, garru-
lous, proselytizing fool! — attempted for years past to interest her
in the rudiments of botany. How the miserable man upbraided
himself now! He saw two bunches of leaves just below the flower
tremble and flutter, and rear themselves painfully upwards into
the very likeness of two shocked and protesting hands. He saw
the soft and orderly petals of his cousin's face ruffle and incarna-
dine with rage and embarrassment, then turn sickly as a gardenia
with horror and dismay. But what was he to do? All the rectitude
implanted by his careful training, all the chivalry proper to an
orchid-collector, boiled and surged beneath a paralytically calm
Green Thoughts 
exterior. He positively travailed in the effort to activate the mus-
cles of his face, to assume an expression of grief, manly contrition,
helplessness in the face of fate, willingness to make honorable
amends, all suffused with the light of a vague but solacing op-
timism; but it was in vain. When he had strained till his nerves
seemed likely to tear under the tension, the only movement he
could achieve was a trivial flutter of the left eyelid — worse than
This incident completely aroused Mr. Mannering from his veg-
etable lethargy. He rebelled against the limitations of the form
into which he had thus been cast while subjectively he remained
all too human. Was he not still at heart a man, with a man's hopes,
ideals, aspirations — and capacity for suffering?
When dusk came, and the opulent and sinister shapes of the
great plant dimmed to a suggestiveness more powerfully impres-
sive than had been its bright noonday luxuriance, and the at-
mosphere of a tropical forest filled the orchid-house like an exile's
dream or the nostalgia of the saxophone; when the cat's whiskers
drooped, and even Cousin Jane's eyes slowly closed, the unhappy
man remained wide awake, staring into the gathering darkness.
Suddenly the light in the study was switched on. Two men en-
tered the room. One of them was his lawyer, the other was his
"This is his study, as you know, of course," said the wicked
nephew. "There's nothing here. I looked round when I came over
"Ah, well!" said the lawyer. "It's a very queer business, an ab-
solute mystery." He had evidently said so more than once before;
they must have been discussing matters in another room. "Well,
we must hope for the best. In the meantime, in all the circum-
stances, it's perhaps as well that you, as next-of-kin, should take
charge of things here. We must hope for the best."
Saying this, the lawyer turned, about to go, and Mr. Mannering
saw a malicious smile overspread the young man's face. The un-
easiness which had overcome him at first sight of his nephew was
intensified to fear and trembling at the sight of this smile.
When he had shown the lawyer out, the nephew returned to the
study and looked round him with lively and sinister satisfaction.
Then he cut a caper on the hearth-rug. Mr. Mannering thought
 Green Thoughts
he had never seen anything so diabolical as this solitary expression
of the glee of a venomous nature at the prospect of unchecked
sway, here whence he had been outcast. How vulgar petty triumph
appeared, beheld thus; how disgusting petty spite, how appalling
revengefulness and hardness of heart! He remembered suddenly
that his nephew had been notable, in his repulsive childhood, for
his cruelty to flies, tearing their wings off, and for his barbarity
towards cats. A sort of dew might have been noticed upon the
good man's forehead. It seemed to him that his nephew had only
to glance that way, and all would be discovered, although he
might have remembered that it was impossible to see from the
lighted room into the darkness in the hothouse.
On the mantelpiece stood a large unframed photograph of Mr.
Mannering. His nephew soon caught sight of this, and strode
across to confront it with a triumphant and insolent sneer. "What?
You old Pharisee," said he, "taken her off for a trip to Brighton,
have you? My God! How I hope you'll never come back! How I
hope you've fallen over the cliffs, or got swept off by the tide or
something! Anyway — I'll make hay while the sun shines. Ugh!
you old skinflint, you!" And he reached forward his hand, on
which the thumb held the middle finger bent and in check, and
that finger, then released, rapped viciously upon the nose in the
photograph. Then the usurping rascal left the room, leaving all
the lights on, presumably preferring the dining-room with its cel-
larette to the scholarly austerities of the study.
All night long the glare of electric light from the study fell full
upon Mr. Mannering and his Cousin Jane, like the glare of a cheap
and artificial sun. You who have seen at midnight in the park a
few insomniac asters standing stiff and startled under an arc light,
all their weak color bleached out of them by the drenching chemi-
cal radiance, neither asleep nor awake, but held fast in a tense,
a neurasthenic trance, you can form an idea of how the night
passed with this unhappy pair.
And towards morning an incident occurred, trivial in itself, no
doubt, but sufficient then and there to add the last drop to poor
Cousin Jane's discomfiture and to her relative's embarrassment
and remorse. Along the edge of the great earthbox in which the
orchid was planted ran a small black mouse. It had wicked red
eyes, a naked, evil snout, and huge, repellent ears, queer as a
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bat's. This creature ran straight over the lower leaves of Cousin
Jane's part of the plant. It was simply appalling: the stringy main
stem writhed like a hair on a coal-fire, the leaves contracted in an
agonized spasm, like seared mimosa; the terrified lady nearly up-
rooted herself in her convulsive horror. I think she would actually
have done so, had not the mouse hurried on past her.
But it had not gone more than a foot or so when it looked up
and saw, bending over it, and seeming positively to bristle with
life, that flower which had once been called Tib. There was a
breathless pause. The mouse was obviously paralyzed with terror,
the cat could only look and long. Suddenly the more human
watchers saw a sly frond of foliage curve softly outward and close
in behind the hypnotized creature. Cousin Jane, who had been
thinking exultantly, "Well, now it'll go away and never, never,
never come back," suddenly became aware of hideous possibilities.
Summoning all her energy, she achieved a spasmodic flutter,
enough to break the trance that held the mouse, so that, like a
clock-work toy, it swung round and fled. But already the fell arm
of the orchid had cut off its retreat. The mouse leaped straight at
it. Like a flash five tendrils at the end caught the fugitive and held
it fast, and soon its body dwindled and was gone. Now the heart
of Cousin Jane was troubled with horrid fears, and slowly and
painfully she turned her weary face first to one side, then to the
other, in a fever of anxiety as to where the new bud would appear.
A sort of sucker, green and sappy, which twisted lightly about her
main stem, and reared a blunt head, much like a tip of asparagus,
close to her own, suddenly began to swell in the most suspicious
manner. She squinted at it, fascinated and appalled. Could it be
her imagination? It was not
Next evening the door opened again, and again the nephew en-
tered the study. This time he was alone, and it was evident that
he had come straight from table. He carried in his hand a decanter
of whisky capped by an inverted glass. Under his arm was a
siphon. His face was distinctly flushed, and such a smile as is
often seen at saloon bars played about his lips. He put down his
burdens and, turning to Mr. Mannering's cigar cabinet, produced
a bunch of keys which he proceeded to try upon the lock, mut-
tering vindictively at each abortive attempt, until it opened,
when he helped himself from the best of its contents. Annoying as
 Green Thoughts
it was to witness this insolent appropriation of his property, and
mortifying to see the contempt with which the cigar was smoked,
the good gentleman found deeper cause for uneasiness in the
thought that, with the possession of the keys, his abominable
nephew had access to every private corner that was his.
At present, however, the usurper seemed indisposed to carry on
investigations; he splashed a great deal of whisky into the tumbler
and relaxed into an attitude of extravagant comfort. But after a
while the young man began to tire of his own company; he had
not yet had time to gather any of his pothouse companions into
his uncle's home, and repeated recourse to the whisky bottle only
increased his longing for something to relieve the monotony. His
eye fell upon the door of the orchid-house. Sooner or later it was
bound to have happened. Does this thought greatly console the
condemned man when the fatal knock sounds upon the door of
his cell? No. Nor were the hearts of the trembling pair in the hot-
house at all comforted by the reflection.
As the nephew fumbled with the handle of the glass door,
Cousin Jane slowly raised two fronds of leaves that grew on each
side, high up on her stem, and sank her troubled head behind
them. Mr. Mannering observed, in a sudden rapture of hope, that
by this device she was fairly well concealed from any casual
glance. Hastily he strove to follow her example. Unfortunately,
he had not yet gained sufficient control of his — his limbs? — and
all his tortured efforts could not raise them beyond an agonized
horizontal. The door had opened, the nephew was feeling for the
electric light switch just inside. It was a moment for one of the
superlative achievements of panic. Mr. Mannering was well
equipped for the occasion. Suddenly, at the cost of indescribable
effort, he succeeded in raising the right frond, not straight up-
wards, it is true, but in a series of painful jerks along a curve
outward and backward, and ascending by slow degrees till it at-
tained the position of an arm held over the possessor's head from
behind. Then, as the light flashed on, a spray of leaves at the very
end of this frond spread out into a fan, rather like a very fleshy
horse-chestnut leaf in structure, and covered the anxious face
below. What a relief! And now the nephew advanced into the
orchid-house, and now the hidden pair simultaneously remem-
bered the fatal presence of the cat. Simultaneously also, their very
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sap stood still in their veins. The nephew was walking along by
the plant. The cat, a sagacious beast, "knew" with the infallible
intuition of its kind that this was an idler, a parasite, a sensualist,
gross and brutal, disrespectful to age, insolent to weakness, bar-
barous to cats. Therefore it remained very still, trusting to its low
and somewhat retired position on the plant, and to protective
mimicry and such things, and to the half-drunken condition of the
nephew, to avoid his notice. But all in vain.
"What?" said the nephew. "What, a cat?" And he raised his
hand to offer a blow at the harmless creature. Something in the
dignified and unflinching demeanor of his victim must have pene-
trated into even his besotted mind, for the blow never fell, and
the bully, a coward at heart, as bullies invariably are, shifted his
gaze from side to side to escape the steady, contemptuous stare of
the courageous cat. Alas! His eye fell on something glimmering
whitely behind the dark foliage. He brushed aside the intervening
leaves that he might see what it was. It was Cousin Jane.
"Oh! Ah!" said the young man, in great confusion. "You're back.
But what are you hiding there for?"
His sheepish stare became fixed, his mouth opened in bewilder-
ment; then the true condition of things dawned upon his mind.
Most of us would have at once instituted some attempt at com-
munication, or at assistance of some kind, or at least have knelt
down to thank our Creator that we had, by His grace, been spared
such a fate, or perhaps have made haste from the orchid-house to
ensure against accidents. But alcohol had so inflamed the young
man's hardened nature that he felt neither fear, nor awe, nor
gratitude. As he grasped the situation a devilish smile overspread
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" said he. "But where's the old man?"
He peered about the plant, looking eagerly for his uncle. In a
moment he had located him and, raising the inadequate visor of
leaves, discovered beneath it the face of our hero, troubled with a
hundred bitter emotions.
"Hullo, Narcissus!" said the nephew.
A long silence ensued. The nephew was so pleased that he could
not say a word. He rubbed his hands together, and licked his lips,
and stared and stared as a child might at a new toy.
"Well, you're properly up a tree," he said. "Yes, the tables are
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turned now all right, aren't they? Ha! Ha! Do you remember the
last time we met?"
A flicker of emotion passed over the face of the suffering blos-
som, betraying consciousness.
"Yes, you can hear what I say," added the tormentor, "feel, too,
I expect. What about that?"
As he spoke, he stretched out his hand and, seizing a delicate
frill of fine, silvery filaments that grew as whiskers grow round the
lower half of the flower, he administered a sharp tug. Without
pausing to note, even in the interests of science, the subtler shades
of his uncle's reaction, content with the general effect of that
devastating wince, the wretch chuckled with satisfaction and, tak-
ing a long pull from the reeking butt of the stolen cigar, puffed the
vile fumes straight into his victim's center. The brute!
"How do you like that, John the Baptist?" he asked with a leer.
"Good for the blight, you know. Just what you want!"
Something rustled upon his coat sleeve. Looking down, he saw
a long stalk, well adorned with the fatal tendrils, groping its way
over the arid and unsatisfactory surface. In a moment it had
reached his wrist, he felt it fasten, but knocked it off as one would
a leech, before it had time to establish its hold.
"Ugh!" said he. "So that's how it happens, is it? I think I'll keep
outside till I get the hang of things a bit. / don't want to be made
an Aunt Sally of. Though I shouldn't think they could get you
with your clothes on." Struck by a sudden thought, he looked
from his uncle to Cousin Jane, and from Cousin Jane back to his
uncle again. He scanned the floor, and saw a single crumpled bath-
towel robe lying in the shadow.
"Why!" he said. "Well!— Haw! Haw! Haw!" And with an odious
backward leer, he made his way out of the orchid-house.
Mr. Mannering felt that his suffering was capable of no increase.
Yet he dreaded the morrow. His fevered imagination patterned
the long night with waking nightmares, utterly fantastic visions
of humiliation and torture. Torture! It was absurd, of course, for
him to fear cold-blooded atrocities on the part of his nephew, but
how he dreaded some outrageous whim that might tickle the
youth's sense of humor, and lead him to any wanton freak, espe-
cially if he were drunk at the time. He thought of slugs and snails,
espaliers and topiary. If only the monster would rest content with
Green Thoughts 
insulting jests, with wasting his substance, ravaging his cherished
possessions before his eyes, with occasional pulling at the whiskers,
even! Then it might be possible to turn gradually from all that
still remained in him of man, to subdue the passions, no longer to
admire or desire, to go native as it were, relapsing into the Nir-
vana of a vegetable dream. But in the morning he found this was
not so easy.
In came the nephew and, pausing only to utter the most per-
functory of jeers at his relatives in the glass house, he sat at the
desk and unlocked the top drawer. He was evidently in search of
money, his eagerness betrayed that; no doubt he had run through
all he had filched from his uncle's pockets, and had not yet worked
out a scheme for getting direct control of his bank account. How-
ever, the drawer held enough to cause the scoundrel to rub his
hands with satisfaction and, summoning the housekeeper, to bel-
low into her ear a reckless order upon the wine and spirit merchant.
"Get along with you!" he shouted, when he had at last made
her understand. "I shall have to get someone a bit more on the
spot to wait on me; I can tell you that. Yes," he added to himself
as the poor old woman hobbled away, deeply hurt by his bullying
manner, "yes, a nice little parlor-maid — a nice little parlor-maid."
He hunted in the Buff Book for the number of the local registry
office. That afternoon he interviewed a succession of maidservants
in his uncle's study. Those that happened to be plain, or too obvi-
ously respectable, he treated curtly and coldly; they soon made
way for others. It was only when a girl was attractive (according
to the young man's depraved tastes, that is) and also bore herself
in a fast or brazen manner, that the interview was at all pro-
longed. In these cases the nephew would conclude in a fashion
that left no doubt at all in the minds of any of his auditors as to
his real intentions. Once, for example, leaning forward, he took the
girl by the chin, saying with an odious smirk, "There's no one else
but me, and so you'd be treated just like one of the family; d'you
see, my dear?" To another he would say, slipping his arm round
her waist, "Do you think we shall get on well together?"
After this conduct had sent two or three in confusion from the
room, there entered a young person of the most regrettable de-
scription, one whose character, betrayed as it was in her meretri-
cious finery, her crude cosmetics, and her tinted hair, showed yet
 Green Thoughts
more clearly in florid gesture and too facile smile. The nephew
lost no time in coming to an arrangement with this creature. In-
deed, her true nature was so obvious that the depraved young
man only went through the farce of an ordinary interview as a
sauce to his anticipations, enjoying the contrast between conven-
tional dialogue and unbridled glances. She was to come next day.
Mr. Mannering feared more for his unhappy cousin than for him-
self. "What scenes may she not have to witness," he thought,
"that yellow cheek of hers to incarnadine?" If only he could have
said a few words.
But that evening, when the nephew came to take his ease in
the study, it was obvious that he was far more under the influence
of liquor than he had been before. His face, flushed patchily by
the action of the spirits, wore a sullen sneer, an ominous light
burned in that bleared eye, he muttered savagely under his breath.
Clearly this fiend in human shape was what is known as "fighting
drunk"; clearly some trifle had set his vile temper in a blaze.
It is interesting to note, even at this stage, a sudden change in
Mr. Mannering's reactions. They now seemed entirely egoistical,
and were to be elicited only by stimuli directly associated with
physical matters. The nephew kicked a hole in a screen in his
drunken fury, he flung a burning cigar-end down on the carpet,
he scratched matches on the polished table. His uncle witnessed
this with the calm of one whose sense of property and of dignity
has become numbed and paralyzed; he felt neither fury nor morti-
fication. Had he, by one of those sudden strides by which all such
development takes place, approached much nearer to his goal,
complete vegetation? His concern for the threatened modesty of
Cousin Jane, which had moved him so strongly only a few hours
earlier, must have been the last dying flicker of exhausted altru-
ism; that most human characteristic had faded from him. The
change, however, in its present stage, was not an unmixed bless-
ing. Narrowing in from the wider and more expressly human re-
gions of his being, his consciousness now left outside its focus not
only pride and altruism, which had been responsible for much of
his woe, but fortitude and detachment also, which, with quota-
tions from the Greek, had been his support before the whole bat-
tery of his distresses. Moreover, within its constricted circle, his
ego was not reduced but concentrated, his serene, flowerlike in-
Green Thoughts 
difference towards the ill-usage of his furniture was balanced by
the absorbed, flowerlike single-mindedness of his terror at the
thought of similar ill-usage directed towards himself.
Inside the study the nephew still fumed and swore. On the man-
telpiece stood an envelope, addressed in Mr. Mannering's hand-
writing to Cousin Jane. In it was the letter he had written from
town, describing his nephew's disgraceful conduct. The young
man's eye fell upon this and, unscrupulous, impelled by idle curi-
osity, he took it up and drew out the letter. As he read, his face
grew a hundred times blacker than before.
"What," he muttered, " 'a mere race-course cad ... a worth-
less vulgarian ... a scoundrel of the sneaking sort' . . . and
what's this? '. . . cut him off absolutely . . .' What?" said he,
with a horrifying oath. "Would you cut me off absolutely? Two
can play at that game, you old devil!"
And he snatched up a large pair of scissors that lay on the desk,
and burst into the hothouse
Among fish, the dory, they say, screams when it is seized upon
by man; among insects, the caterpillar of the death's-head moth
is capable of a still, small shriek of terror; in the vegetable world,
only the mandrake could voice its agony — till now.
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